Dozens of protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad on Tuesday to vent their rage over deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.
Guards lobbed tear gas and opened fire to quell the unrest, which was quickly contained. The U.S. ambassador and the diplomatic corps were evacuated two days ago, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The actual embassy building was not attacked, he said.
Protesters streamed into the compound after smashing down the guardpost gate with hammers, according to televised footage. Black smoke billowed from tires the protesters had set on fire. Twenty demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation, according to a statement from the umbrella group to which the Kataieb Hezbollah militia belongs.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., swiftly placed the blame on Tehran.
The airstrikes Sunday on five Kataieb Hezbollah bases in Iraq and Syria were launched after repeated attacks on a U.S.-led coalition deployed in the region to crush Islamic State. The rare direct strike on an Iranian proxy killed 25 fighters and came at an especially tense time and held the potential for escalation.
The U.S. and Iran are locked in a standoff over the Trump administration’s crippling economic offensive against Tehran — meant to force it to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal Washington abandoned — and the Islamic Republic’s suspected reprisals.
Earlier Tuesday, militia members and their supporters marched near the embassy compound carrying the coffins of fighters killed in the raid. Thousands gathered not far from the mission, some shouting: “No, no to Israel. No, no to the U.S.”