100 Marines, Apache Helicopters Deployed to Protect U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Protesters burn property in front of the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and …
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

100 U.S. Marines and two Apache helicopters are now protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after pro-Iran mobs attacked the American compound on Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

In an email to the Military Times, Central Command spokesman Mike Lawhorn confirmed the State Department requested reinforcements from the Department of Defense. The helicopters flew in from Taji, Iraq, Lawhorn told the news outlet. OIR spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III shared a video of the choppers flying overhead the embassy as it fired off flares in a show of force.

“The Department of Defense is working closely with the Department of State to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement addressing the attack. “We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense.”

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so,” the secretary added.

Earlier Tuesday, protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, denouncing a series of deadly American airstrikes against an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group in Iraq and Syria.

Hundreds of protesters marched through the heavily fortified “Green Zone” near the compound in anger over Sunday’s strikes against the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, which had been blamed by the Pentagon for the death of a U.S. contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq, late last week. The militia is part of an umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is an official branch of the Iraqi military. The PMF fought against the Islamic State, a Sunni organization, as most components are Shiite, pro-Iranian groups.

President Donald Trump blamed the protests on Iran in a Twitter post, saying it was “orchestrating” them and calling on Iraq to “use its forces” to protect the embassy.

“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,” the president tweeted. “They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified”:

In a subsequent tweet, the president wrote, “To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time”:

The UPI contributed to this report. 

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