After a day of angry protests in front of the United States embassy in Baghdad, violence continued again on Wednesday as security personnel fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters trying to scale the walls of the embassy.
The violence began after Iranian proxy forces launched yet another missile attack on an American base in Kirkuk. Kata’ib Hezbollah was held responsible for this and several other missile attacks, which left a number of American and Iraqi personnel wounded, on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria. After several warnings to the Iranians, the U.S. launched several strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria. According to reports, dozens were killed from the airstrikes.
But Kata’ib Hezbollah, in either a brilliant stroke or a dumb move, got locals out with their militias to attempt to enter and burn the U.S. Embassy.
Protesters were waving a mix of Iraqi and Hezbollah flags during the violence.
President Trump, naturally took to Twitter. He put the focus on and blamed Tehran for the protests around the Embassy and Baghdad. He said that the Iranians would be held responsible for the damage to the Embassy grounds and/or personnel.
“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” Trump tweeted. “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.”
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a televised statement that the Iranian militiamen and their supporters are “not protesters.” “These were terrorists that are organized, trained and equipped by the Iranian regime,” she added.
The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which are part of the paramilitary proxy forces used in Iraq, released a statement asking that the “protesters” respect the Iraqi government. But thus far, their statement has been ignored.
Kata’ib Hezbollah is, like all Iranian proxies, an anti-American militia who attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria in 2017 and 2018.
“The American administration should understand the following: the first step was to protest near the American embassy, we are waiting for their reactions to determine the second step,” Mohamad Mouhiye, a spokesman for Hezbollah said, stating the United States must withdraw from Iraq.
“First, close the doors of the evil embassy, which we consider a spy building and an operations room to administer and sabotage Iraq’s well-being,” Mouhiye said. “We also call on the U.S. to withdraw their military forces which are in Iraq illegally.”
The U.S. has deployed a battalion of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division — about 750 in total — to Kuwait. They are to deploy in Iraq if needed. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that additional troops will be deployed as necessary.
”The American troops in Iraq are supposed to either train Iraqi forces or to combat terrorism. But the killing of members of the Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces] is something unacceptable,” the Director of the Doctrinal Guidance for the PMUs, Mohamed Al-Haydari, told Reuters. He conveniently left out that the PMUs weren’t supposed to be sending missiles against the Americans or the Iraqi security forces.