Supporters of an Iran-backed terrorist group began to withdraw from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Jan. 1, a day after they stormed the outer perimeter and prompted President Donald Trump to dispatch extra troops to the region and threaten reprisals against Iran.
Dozens of attackers linked to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah terrorist group smashed a main door to the embassy compound on Dec. 31 and set fire to a reception area, but didnt breach the inner compound. The attack was in response to U.S. airstrikes that targeted the same terrorist group and killed at least 25 people. No U.S. casualties or evacuations were reported after the attack.
The day after, demonstrators outside the embassy waved Iraqi and Kataib Hezbollah flags, hurled rocks, and chanted “death to America.” The embassys outer walls were left with scorch marks and graffiti. U.S. forces stationed atop rooftops fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. American Apache helicopters flew overhead and dropped flares over the area in what the U.S. military called a “show of force.”
By mid-afternoon, most of the protesters appeared to have obeyed a call to withdraw issued by the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group that, at the time of its formation, was composed of Iran-backed militia and terrorist groups, including Kataib Hezbollah.
Young men used palm tree branches to sweep the street in front of the embassy compound, while others packed up equipment and vans arrived to take people away. Some left to set up a protest camp in front of a nearby hotel.
The protests mark a new turn in tensions between Washington and Tehran playing out across the Middle East. Irans economy has been crippled by sanctions Trump reimposed upon Washingtons withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Since the withdrawal, Tehran has publicly breached the nuclear deal, ramped up its nuclear program, and attacked oil shipping vessels in the Persian Gulf.
Trump on Dec. 31 threatened to retaliate against Iran for the attack on the embassy but later said he didnt want to go to war. The measured approach is similar to last summer, when Trump called off airstrikes against Iran in response to the downing of an American drone.
The Iranian regimes supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Jan. 1 condemned the U.S. attacks. Iran summoned a Swiss envoy who represents U.S. interests in Tehran to complain about what it described as “warmongering” words from Washington.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a written statement on Dec. 31 that “in response to recent events” in Iraq, and at Trumps direction, he authorized the immediate deployment of the infantry battalion from the Armys 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He did not specify the soldiers destination, but a U.S. official familiar with the decision said they will go to Kuwait.
“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Esper said.
Additional soldiers from the 82nd Airbornes quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, were prepared to deploy, Esper said. The U.S. official who anonymously provided unreleased details said the full brigade of about 4,000 soldiers may deploy.
The 750 soldiers deploying immediately were in addition to 14,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Gulf region since May in response to concerns about Iranian aggression, including its alleged sabotage of commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf. At the time of the attack, the United States had about 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train Iraqi forces and help them combat ISIS terrorists.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a supporter of Trumps Iran policy, called the embassy breach “yet another reckless escalation” by Iran.
“When an IrRead More – Source