Hundreds of protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday following the airstrikes conducted by the U.S. forces targeting Iran-backed militias.
In one of the worst attacks on a U.S. embassy in recent times, the protestors smashed the main door and set fire to a reception area. The protestors were mainly supporters of the powerful Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces, PMF) paramilitary group whose members were killed in the U.S. airstrikes. They are demanding the removal of American troops from Iraq.
#BREAKING – Les gardes de l’ambassade ont utilisé des grenades assourdissantes contre les manifestants. La vidéo montre au moins un blessé et un sérieux incendie dans le secteur des contrôles des visiteurs de l’ambassade. #Baghdad #Iraq #USEmbassy pic.twitter.com/LqLDeYUqHA
— C O U P S U R E (@COUPSURE) December 31, 2019
Protestors are currently breaking into the #US Embassy in #Baghdad, #Iraq. Kata’ib #Hezbollah supporters have managed to break through the first security gate (photo via @thestevennabil) flags can be seen. pic.twitter.com/mIpTn70wF9
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) December 31, 2019
There were no reports of casualties in the incident with the U.S. State Department saying that all American personnel were safe, and there are no plans to evacuate the embassy.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement that Iran will be held fully responsible for the incident and called on Iraq to use its forces 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
During the protests, a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter dropped flares while flying over the embassy in a ‘show of force’.
VIDEO: AH-64 Apaches protect @USEmbBaghdad. 🚁“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens…and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”~@EsperDoD 🇺🇸🇮🇶 pic.twitter.com/amABHBAOcL
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) December 31, 2019
The U.S. has deployed more than 100 Marines from Kuwait to the embassy to bolster security. The U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) arrived in the embassy compound abroad USMC MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft on Dec. 31.
Images from the US Embassy in Baghdad depict MV-22 Ospreys delivering U.S. Marines to the US Embassy in Baghdad to reinforce security and ensure the safety of American citizens. @CENTCOM @OIRSpox @USMARCENT pic.twitter.com/9nUbWmBCuV
— SPMAGTF CR CC (@SPMAGTF_CR_CC) December 31, 2019
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) December 31, 2019
The U.S. Defense Secretary Esper also authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of operations in response to the events.
Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days, according to a Pentagon statement.
The U.S. forces have conducted ‘precision defensive strikes’ against five Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities in Iraq and Syria. The strikes were in response to KH attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces. The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.
Recent KH strikes included a 30-plus rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk that resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The KH attacks have also injured multiple members of the ISF.