Supporters and members of Kataib Hezbollah attempted to ambush the American embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday. President Donald Trump responded by sending military reinforcements in to defend the embassy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, members of the mob used a metal pole "to ram the entrance to an office on the perimeter of the embassy compound that issues security badges." Security staff made their way to the roof the building where they fired tear-gas grenades to keep the crowd back. Apache helicopters dropped flares overhead, a clear show of force. And Marines were sent in from Kuwait to help strengthen the embassy's security.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon deployed 750 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina to nearby military bases where they will wait until they are needed in Baghdad. Additional troops are being deployed over the next few days.
The mob retreated on Wednesday after the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), "an umbrella body for dozens of militia groups including factions aligned with Iran," told the mob they made it clear they wanted American troops to leave Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Several hundred members of the mob refused to listen to PMF, saying they only taking direction from their group's leadership, The Washington Post reported. A top Kataib Hezbollah official, Mohammed Mohyee, the group's political spokesperson, showed up outside the embassy and told the mob to leave.
"You have won a victory,” Mohyee reportedly told the group through a loudspeaker. “We will take our fight to expel U.S. troops from our land to parliament, and if we don’t succeed, we will return.”
The group planned to move to establish a "protest camp" on the other side of the Tigris River, an area that is outside the fortified Green Zone, meaning a direct threat is not imposed on the embassy.
Mohyee told the Associated Press that the so-called protests "will continue" but his group was facing pressure from “the presidency and some Iraqi politicians” who want to “please the Americans.” According to Mohyee, Kataib Hezbollah plans to continue their campout until the United States "ambassador is evicted, the embassy is closed and all American troops leave Iraq."
President Trump took to Twitter to let the world know America will defend its embassy, a stark contrast to what took place on September 11, 2012 when Libyan militias attacked a U.S. mission building. During a 13-hour period, four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. American contractors who were nearby wanted to help defend the embassy but were told to stand down. Eventually, they defied orders but the lack of reinforcement is what led to the embassy being overrun.
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. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
Our first priority is the safety and security of U.S. personnel. The United States has acted quickly, prudently, and decisively, taking additional security measures to address threats to American diplomats and facilities in Baghdad. pic.twitter.com/1xexNc4iQb— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 31, 2019
Footage was released of the Marines arriving at the embassy in Baghdad:
More than 100 U.S. Marines have arrived at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to bolster security after Iranian-backed militiamen attempted to breach the compound (video: USMC) pic.twitter.com/pxo7RwPUdd— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) December 31, 2019
December 31, 2019–— Dan Scavino Jr.???? (@Scavino45) January 1, 2020
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys drop off Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.???????? pic.twitter.com/RgBTMVAKCg
VIDEO: AH-64 Apaches protect @USEmbBaghdad. ??“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens...and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”~@EsperDoD ???????? pic.twitter.com/amABHBAOcL— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) December 31, 2019
The Trump team reminded Americans of the stark difference between the Obama administration and the Trump administration: when an American embassy needs to be defended, President Trump will send in reinforcement.
The Anti-Benghazi! https://t.co/SzPfhoJhiY— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) January 1, 2020
Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded to Trump on Twitter by taunting him, saying the Middle Eastern county will respond.
That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran.— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020
1st: You can’t do anything.
2nd: If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you. https://t.co/hMGOEDwHuY
He then went on to explain how Iran views the attacks:
If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, & glory.— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020
If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront & strike them.
A senior official of the country said a foreign politician said during the recent riots he had heard the stupid U.S. officials in Washington say happily, “Iran is done this time!”— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020
He said when the events had finished, the Americans were very upset that it hadn’t worked again.
This post has been updated with additional information.