News & Politics

Iran-Backed Militia Storms U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Chanting, 'Death to America!'

Protesters burn property in front of the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

On Tuesday, mourners with an Iran-backed militia stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as the Iraqi government refused to intervene. Protesters lit the embassy on fire and shouted, “Death to America!” The attack followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday against the Iran-backed militia after an American contractor was killed last week in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

“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,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. “In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

After the rocket attack last week, the U.S. blamed Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi state-sanctioned militia backed by Iran. The airstrikes on Sunday killed 25 members of the militia, the Associated Press reported.

The mob originally gathered to mourn the slain militia members, but later marched to the U.S. Embassy chanting, “Down, Down USA!” They raised yellow militia flags and taunted the embassy’s security staff, spraying graffiti reading, “Closed in the name of the resistance.”

AP journalists saw the mob try to scale the walls of the embassy, shouting, “Down, down USA!” and “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”

When the mob broke into the embassy, it smashed a main door, set fire to a reception area, and was met with tear gas and the sounds of gunfire. An AP reporter on the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main building.

While the embassy is located in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, Iraqi forces made no effort to prevent the mob advancing onto the embassy. Seven armored vehicles with about 30 Iraqi soldiers arrived near the embassy in the hours after the violence, deploying near the embassy walls but not near the area where the mob had pushed its way in. Four vehicles carrying riot police approached but were forced back by protesters.

Iraqi Interior Minister Yassine al-Yasseri appeared outside the embassy and walked around to inspect the scene. He told the AP that the prime minister had warned the U.S. against strikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah.

“This is one of the implications,” al-Yasseri said. “This is a problem and is embarrassing to the government.”

Iraq has been courting both Iran and the U.S. following the agreement to allow some U.S. troops to stay in the country. The Iraqi government said it will reconsider its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition, calling the U.S. airstrikes a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is not to be confused with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

Iran has brutally crushed internal opposition to the regime, with approximately 1,500 protesters murdered in November.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.