Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire, angered over deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed militia. President Trump should punish the Mullahs directly for the embassy breach.
President Donald Trump is blaming Iran for a breach of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad. in a tweet, he called on Iraq to protect the embassy.
Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
PUNISH THE MULLAHS DIRECTLY FOR EMBASSY BREACH
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main embassy building. There was a fire at the reception area near the parking lot of the compound but it was unclear what had caused it. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”
There were no reports of casualties but the unprecedented breach was one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory.
It followed deadly U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The U.S. military said the airstrikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.
The developments represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations. The United States must punish the Mullahs directly for Embassy breach. If Iran is attacking the U.S. directly, our response should be as direct.
Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi apparent decision not to prevent the protesters from reaching the embassy signaled how influential is Iran in Iraq.
REMEMBER THE PROTESTERS AGAINST IRAN IN IRAQ? MOST IRAQIS WELCOMED THE U.S. STRIKES
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters as they marched to the heavily-fortified Green Zone. After the marchers held a funeral for those killed in the U.S. airstrikes. It let them pass through a security checkpoint leading to the area.
Dozens of protesters pushed into the embassy compound after smashing the car entry gate. The protesters, many in militia uniform, stopped in a corridor after about 5 meters. The main building was some 200 meters away. Witnesses saw half a dozen U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main building pointing their guns at the protesters.
Smoke from the tear gas rose in the area, and at least three of the protesters appeared to have difficulties breathing. The U.S. Ambassador was evacuated at some point.
The protesters hanged a poster on the wall: “America is an aggressor”. Some commanders of militia factions loyal to Iran joined the protesters. Among those was Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the state-sanctioned paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, the umbrella group for the Iran-backed militias.
TERRIBLE IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Yassine al-Yasseri, Iraq’s interior minister, also appeared outside the embassy at one point. He walked around to inspect the scene. Al-Yasseri told the AP that the prime minister had warned the U.S. strikes on the Shiite militiamen would have serious consequences. Terrorist Khamenei controls the elections in Iraq, just as he does in Iran.
He said more security will be deployed to separate the protesters from the embassy, an indication the Iraqi troops would not move in to break up the crowd by force.
Earlier, the mob shouted “Down, Down USA!” as the crowd tried to push inside the embassy grounds, hurling water and stones over its walls. They raised yellow militia flags and taunted the embassy’s security staff who remained behind the glass windows in the gates’ reception area and also sprayed graffiti on the wall and windows. The graffiti, in red in support of the Kataeb Hezbollah, read: “Closed in the name of the resistance.”
Also, hundreds of angry protesters set up tents outside the embassy. As tempers rose, the mob set fire to three trailers used by security guards along the embassy wall.
No one was immediately reported hurt in the rampage and the security staff withdrew inside the embassy earlier, soon after protesters gathered outside.
Seven armored vehicles with about 30 Iraqi soldiers arrived near the embassy hours after the violence erupted. They deployed near the embassy walls but not close to the breached area. Four vehicles carrying riot police approached the embassy later. The protesters forced them back as they blocked their path.
There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon and the State Department on the breach of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The U.S. airstrikes represent a new escalation in the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran.
AP contributed to this article.