Tuesday, December 31, 2019
By early evening Tuesday, the mob had retreated from the compound but set up several tents outside for an intended sit-in. Dozens of yellow flags belonging to Iran-backed Shiite militias fluttered atop the reception area and were plastered along the embassy’s concrete wall along with anti-US graffiti. American Apache helicopters flew overhead and dropped flares over the area in what the U.S. military called a “show of force.”
The US also was sending 100 or more additional Marines to the embassy compound to support its defenses.
The embassy breach was seen by some analysts as affirming their view that it is folly for the US to keep forces in Iraq after having eliminated the Islamic State group’s territorial hold in the country.
A US withdrawal from Iraq is also a long-term hope of Iran, noted Paul Salem, president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
For the president, Iran’s attacks — directly and now through proxies in Iraq — have “been working that nerve,” Salem said. “Now they really have Trump’s attention.”
Erdoğan seems to think that his best defense in the Mediterranean power game is an offense. On December 15, Turkish Naval Forces intercepted an Israeli research ship, the Bat Galim, in Cypriot waters and escorted it away, as tension over natural resource exploration continued to rise in the region.
On December 16, Turkey dispatched a surveillance and reconnaissance drone to the Turkish-controlled north of the divided island of Cyprus. A week before the drone deployment, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Ankara could use its military forces to halt gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own.
The Mediterranean chess game leaves Turkey in alliance with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet and one of the warring factions in Libya, versus a strategic grouping of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt (and the UAE), Israel, and the other warring Libyan group.
One emerging power in Libya, however, is not a Western state actor. After controlling Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and establishing permanent military bases inside and off the coast of the country, Russia has the potential to step into the Libyan theater with a bigger proxy and direct force, to establish its second permanent Mediterranean military presence. As in Syria, where divergent interests did not stop Turkey from becoming a remote-controlled Russian player, Moscow can once again make use of the Turkish card to undermine Western interests in Libya.
Also as in Syria, Turkey's Islamist agenda will probably fail in Libya, but by the time Erdoğan understands that, it might be too late to get out of Moscow's orbit.
- American soldiers inside the embassy have fired tear gas, stun grenades and warning shots at hundreds of fighters who broke down the compound gate and set fires within the complex on Tuesday
- The ambassador was on leave at the time of the attack and embassy staff had already been evacuated before the US marine guard became besieged at the compound
- Trump has vowed to hold Tehran accountable for the embassy attack, which is in retaliation for US air strikes on the Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah on Sunday night
- Those USAF strikes were themselves in retaliation for last week's killing of an American contractor in Kirkuk
- 'Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will.' Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. '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!'
American soldiers inside the embassy have fired tear gas, stun grenades and warning shots, wounding 20 of the hundreds of fighters who broke down the gate and set fires within the complex in the Iraqi capital.
The ambassador was on leave at the time of the attack and embassy staff had already been evacuated before the US marine guard became besieged behind the bullet-proof glass and on the rooftops.
Trump has vowed to hold Tehran accountable for the embassy attack, which is in retaliation for US air strikes on the Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah on Sunday night. Those strikes a retaliation for last week's killing of an American contractor at a US base in Kirkuk.Scroll down for video.
Iraq Protestors Storm US Embassy In Baghdad
The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s events as they happen.
By PAUL HANDLEY