Iranian-backed protesters in Iraq tried to burn down the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on December 31 in reaction to five airstrikes by the United States in Iraq and Syria on December 29. The recent US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria were in response to the December 27 rocket attack on a US base in Kirkuk, Iraq which had killed a US civilian contractor.
Hundreds of pro-Iranian protesters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad after funerals were held for 25 militia fighters who were killed in the airstrikes orchestrated by the United States.
The protesters were gathered outside the largest US embassy in the world which is located in Baghdad. They threw rocks at the buildings, climbed the walls and even set up tents as night fell, preparing for another day of protests until Iraqi security forces cleared the area. The protesters set fire to the reception area and damaged the security cameras with water bottles.
Iraqi security forces initially did not put a stop to the protest, heightening concerns about the US-Iraq diplomatic relationship. “The fact that they made it this far, to this location, means that the Iraqi forces did not make an attempt to stop the protest,” says CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon.
US President Donald Trump responded to the attack by threatening to hold Iran accountable for damages and lives lost in the act. “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday, December 31. Trump added that he does not wish to start a war with Iran but if it comes to conflict, Iran wouldn’t “last long.”
US sends troops
No one was reported injured in the violence. However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that the Pentagon would send in troops to reinforce the embassy.“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division (in Fort Bragg, North Carolina) to the US Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” said Esper.
About 750 US paratroopers have been deployed to the Middle East following the attack on the embassy. The Pentagon is preparing up to 4,000 paratroopers to be deployed to Kuwait before being sent to Iraq over the next few days.