Tuesday, December 31, 2019

U.S. Blames Iran For Orchestrating Baghdad Embassy Attack

Trump blames Iran for ‘orchestrating’ Baghdad embassy attack

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s events as they happen.

Trump blames Iran for ‘orchestrating’ Baghdad embassy attack

US President Donald Trump blames Iran for Iraqi Shiite militia attacks on US interests, and the current attack by militia supporters against the US Embassy in Baghdad.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” he says.
“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
Dozens of angry Shiite militia supporters broke into the US Embassy compound in Baghdad today after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire.
The embassy attack followed deadly US airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The US military said it was in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.

US President Donald Trump’s order for airstrikes on a Tehran-backed Iraqi militia group, after resisting retaliating against Iran for months, sent a clear message Sunday that killing Americans was his red line.
But experts warned that, far from being deterred, Iran might find that line signals there is space for them to continue the kind of provocative activities that fired up tensions across the Gulf region throughout 2019.
And with Trump facing a re-election fight in 2020, some said Tehran could even step up its actions to challenge the president’s promise to pull US troops out of the Middle East.
US officials said Monday that Trump had exercised “strategic patience” during the past year in the face of Iran’s stepped-up military activities in the region challenging the US and its allies.
But they said that the death Friday of a US civilian contractor in Kirkuk in a rocket attack by Kateb Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Brigades, an Iran-supported militia, forced Trump’s hand.
At least 25 members of the group were killed in retaliatory US strikes Sunday on five of their bases in Iraq and Syria.
“The president has shown a lot of restraint,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran, told reporters Monday.
“We very much hoped that Iran would not miscalculate and confuse our restraint for weakness. But after so many attacks, it was important for the president to direct our armed forces to respond in a way that the Iranian regime will understand.”
Trump mulled and then deferred retaliation against Iran several times this year over its attacks on foreign oil tankers, the downing of a US drone and the brash September drone-and-missile assault on oil plants in Saudi Arabia, which took out nearly half of Riyadh’s oil output.
Each time, the US leader fell back on more economic sanctions, despite them having had little visible impact on Tehran’s expansive regional military operations.
Since October, the Hezbollah Brigades, which the Pentagon said are supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, carried out some 11 rocket attacks on installations in Iraq where US and coalition forces are present.

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