31 December, 2019
By SJA Jafri
BAGHDAD/ WASHINGTON: The President of the United States of America (USA) Donald Trump says he holds Tehran “fully responsible” for protesters storming the US embassy compound in Baghdad days after the US attacked an Iran-backed group in Iraq and Syria.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
On Sunday, the US launched air attacks on sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia, that Washington said was in retaliation for the killing of a US contractor on an Iraqi military base.
Protesters stormed the US embassy compound earlier on Tuesday, after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire.
Shouting “Down, Down USA!” the crowd hurled water bottles and smashed security cameras outside the embassy grounds.
The protesters raised flags of the powerful paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), with which Kataib Hezbollah is associated.
The US ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from the embassy.
Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the US and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government but the government’s angry reaction to the US air attacks signalled a deterioration of US-Iraq relations.