The United States said Tuesday that it is sending hundreds more troops to the Middle East, after protesters stormed its embassy complex in Iraq, burning and shouting "Death to America!"
Enraged by the US air strikes that killed two dozen paramilitary fighters on Sunday, hundreds of men spilled through checkpoints in the high security Green Zone on Tuesday, demanding the expulsion of US troops from Iraq.
In reaction to the attack, US President Donald Trump said he considers Tehran "fully responsible,quot; for the incident and promised that the protesters "will be held fully responsible." wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
"In addition, we hope that Iraq will use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so we notify it!"
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attack was "orchestrated by terrorists," one of whom he named as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Muhandis has been identified as the second in command of the paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi backed by Tehran, which includes Kataeb Hezbollah, the group that was targeted by US airstrikes.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement that around 750 soldiers from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy in the coming days in the region.
"This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to rising levels of threat against US personnel and facilities, as we witnessed today in Baghdad," he said.
A social media post from the US Marines said that the troops of its crisis response command in Kuwait were deployed in Iraq.
Send to the Marines@SPMAGTF_CR_CC is deployed from Kuwait to Iraq to strengthen security at the US embassy and ensure the safety of US citizens there, on December 31 @StateDept pic.twitter.com/NQg4ZAYiGi
– US Marines (@USMC) December 31, 2019
On Sunday, the United States launched air strikes against sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, a militia backed by Iran, which Washington said was in retaliation for the murder of an American contractor at an Iraqi military base.
At least 25 Kataib Hezbollah fighters died in the attack.
That prompted the protest and assault of the US embassy complex on Tuesday.
Protesters raised flags of the powerful paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular mobilization forces), with which Kataib Hezbollah is associated.
Recession in Iraq-United States relations
The events represent a major recession in relations between Iraq and the United States that could further undermine US influence in the region and weaken Washington's hand in its campaign of pressure against Iran.
Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the United States and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government.
But the government’s furious reaction to US airstrikes signaled a deterioration in relations between the United States and Iraq.
For those millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and don't want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is their moment!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters while marching to the heavily fortified Green Zone after a funeral held for those killed in US airstrikes, allowing them to pass through a security checkpoint that leads to area.
Seven armored vehicles with about 30 Iraqi soldiers arrived near the embassy hours after the violence broke out, deploying near the embassy walls but not near the violated area. Later, four vehicles carrying riot police approached the embassy, but protesters blocked their passage.
After the attack, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and President Barham Salih that the United States "will protect and defend his people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq, "the State Department said in a statement. statement.
Both Abdul Mahdi and Salih assured Pompeo that "they took their responsibility seriously and would guarantee the safety of personnel and property of the United States," the statement said.
Al Jazeera and news agencies