US troops have fired teargas to disperse pro-Iran protesters gathered outside the US embassy compound in Baghdad for a second day.
Dozens of militiamen and their supporters camped out at the gates of the embassy overnight. On Tuesday, dozens of protesters had broken into the compound, damaging a reception area and smashing windows in one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory.
US Marines guarding the embassy fired teargas as more people arrived and after the protesters lit a fire on the roof of the reception area. Smoke could be seen rising from the building.
Demonstrators firebombed a gate, starting another fire and US soldiers were seen on the roof of the main embassy building.Advertisement
The breach at the embassy followed US airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kata’ib Hezbollah.
The US military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, which the US blamed on the militia.
No US casualties or evacuations were reported after Tuesday’s embassy attack.
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters on Tuesday as they marched to the heavily fortified Green Zone after a funeral for those killed in the US airstrikes, and nor did they intervene on Wednesday as the protests and fire-bombing resumed.
Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attack. His defence secretary, Mark Esper, later announced the immediate deployment of an infantry battalion of about 750 soldiers from the army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the Middle East. He did not specify their destination, but a US official familiar with the decision said they would go to Kuwait.
The developments represent a downturn in Iraq-US relations that could further undermine US influence in the region and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran. Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the US and Iran.
Source: The Guardian