Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Satellite images appear to show evidence of mass burial pits in Iran to accommodate a growing number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, as experts question Iran’s official death toll.
- The Iranian Government has reported 429 deaths and 10,075 confirmed cases
- Videos have been shared on social media showing body bags lined up in a morgue and locals have told the ABC they believe the death toll is much higher than the Government admits
- A deputy prosecutor says “false” or unauthorised social media footage of the outbreak inside the country is prohibited
A series of images showing the excavation of a new section of graveyard in the city of Qom — the epicentre of Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak — that began around February 21, just two days after Iran reported its first cases of coronavirus, were first published by the New York Times.
The images, provided to the Times by US space technology company Maxar, show what appear to be new rows of graves within the city’s largest cemetery and increased activity around the new site.
@ntabrizy tweet: We first discovered mass grave were being built in Iran via satellite imagery and then tracked how Iran got to this boiling point with the coronavirus.
Dalton Bennett, a reporter with the Washington Post’s investigative unit, tweeted that analysis from Maxar revealed “the size of the new trenches and the speed with which they were excavated together mark a clear departure from past burial practices involving individual and family plots at the site”.
The Iranian Government have reported 429 deaths and 10,075 confirmed cases, but health officials inside Iran previously told the BBC that the true numbers were much higher than were being reported.
Among the dead are dozens of officials, including members of Parliament and a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader.
Civilians inside Iran, who did not want to be named, told the ABC the death toll was numbering in the thousands and hospitals were so full that other public buildings were being used to house those infected.
Between February 19 and 23, Iran reported 43 cases and eight deaths from the virus, but during the same period three exported cases originating in Iran were identified.
‘We do not trust the official statistics’
A report published on health sciences website medRxiv — titled Estimation of COVID-2019 Burden and Potential for International Dissemination of Infection from Iran — estimated that by February 23, “18,300 COVID-19 cases would have had to occur in Iran, assuming an outbreak duration of 1.5 months in the country, in order to observe these three internationally exported cases reported at the time of writing”.
Kaveh Taheri, a Turkey-based researcher, investigative journalist and chairman at the Institute of Capacity Building for Human Rights, said: “Based on grassroots reports received from the country, I am convinced that the estimates would be very close to reality and we do not trust the official statistics.”
“Iranians inside the country are extremely frightened,” he said.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
“You cannot imagine how desperate the people are.”
Videos have also been shared on social media showing body bags lined up in a morgue, gravesites and people passed out in the street.
أحد الكوادر الطبية يوثق وفاة عشرات المصابين بفيروس كورونا بمدينة قم فقط، ويقول الوفيات كثر ولا يوجد مكان للجنائز من المصابين بكورونا .. بينما الحكومة الإيرانية تتستر على حجم الكارثة وتقول لا يوجد شي يدعو للقلق.!
One video shows multiple motionless bodies laid out across a morgue floor.
According to Iranian state media, the person who released the footage was subsequently arrested by local authorities.
A deputy prosecutor in Qom cited by Fars News said the publication of false or unauthorised images about the virus was prohibited.
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Saudi Arabia has suspended arrivals by foreign pilgrims and tourists from some two dozen countries where the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases deepened fears of a pandemic.
- The ban is set to disrupt the travel plans of many Muslims ahead of Ramadan in April
- It was unclear if the major Hajj pilgrimage, set to begin in late July, would be impacted
- All schools in Japan will be asked to close from March 2
The decision comes ahead of the holy fasting of Ramadan, which begins in late April, when visits by Muslims to the kingdom accelerate.
More than 7.5 million people performed the minor Umrah pilgrimage — which can be taken at any time of year — in the birthplace of Islam throughout 2019, according to official figures.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not reported any coronavirus cases, but the other four Gulf Arab states have.
The virus has infected about 80,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,800, the majority in China where the outbreak began in late 2019.
On Wednesday, the number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by new cases elsewhere, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicentres of the illness.
Iran has introduced new measures to combat the spread, including cancelling the main religious sermon on Friday in Tehran, and banning Chinese citizens from visiting the country.
A total of 26 people have died so far in Iran — the highest death toll outside China — and there are now some 245 people infected.
Among those infected, state media reported, is Iranian Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as spokeswoman “Mary” for the 1979 hostage-takers who seized the US Embassy in Tehran and sparked the 444-day diplomatic crisis.
Kuwait and Bahrain recorded more cases on Thursday, all involving people who had been in Iran, to bring their totals to 43 and 33, respectively.
Oman has diagnosed four cases and the United Arab Emirates, a main air transit hub, has reported 13 cases.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said on Thursday (local time) it would be a “fatal mistake” for any country to assume it would not be hit by the new coronavirus.
“No country should assume it won’t get cases, that would be a fatal mistake, quite literally,” he said.
“If you take Italy, a member of the G7, it was really a surprise.
“So even many other developed countries … should expect some surprises.”
Dr Tedros said epidemics in Iran, Italy and South Korea were at a “decisive point” — still marked by clusters of infections with some transmission in communities, but not yet by sustained community transmission.
‘It’s a blessing from the Almighty’
Pilgrimage is big business for Saudi Arabia, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, and is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious economic reform agenda.
Some 2 million people are expected in late July for the week-long Hajj pilgrimage, the world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims.
The Saudi foreign ministry said the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe. It was unclear if the Hajj pilgrimage would be impacted.
Indonesia’s foreign minister has urged Saudi Arabia to allow its citizens to continue their Umrah pilgrimage after hundreds were stranded at Jakarta airport.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country and sends around 1 million pilgrims to Saudi Arabia every year.
“The immediacy of this will impact our citizens because at the time of the announcement, there are Indonesian citizens or maybe citizens of other countries who have flown there,” Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, told reporters on Thursday.
Joko Asmoro, of the Association of Muslim Hajj and Umrah Organisers, said 150,000 to 200,000 Indonesian pilgrims could be affected by the suspension during the next month.
In Indonesia, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto defended the country’s screening process for coronavirus on Thursday and said the absence of confirmed cases in the world’s fourth-most populous nation was a “blessing from the Almighty”.
The sprawling South-East Asian country of more than 260 million people has not recorded any cases, though some of its citizens overseas have contracted the virus, including eight crew on the Diamond Princess cruise liner off Japan’s Yokohama.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in the United States, said in a study this month that Indonesia should strengthen outbreak surveillance and control — especially as it had direct flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The Harvard team said Indonesia’s lack of confirmed cases “may suggest the potential for undetected cases”.
California monitoring 8,400 potential cases
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that health officials are monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus symptoms after they arrived in the state from domestic commercial flights.
The state currently has only about 200 test kits, an “inadequate” number, but has been in “constant contact with federal agencies” that will be sending a significant number of new test kits in coming days, Governor Newsom said.
His comments come as state health authorities confirmed what may be the first case of coronavirus in the United States that has no known connection to overseas travel.
California officials said the person is a resident of Solano County, northeast of San Francisco, and is getting medical care in Sacramento County. They said they have begun the process of tracking down people who the patient has been in contact with, a process known as contact tracing.
The patient was brought to UC Davis Medical Center from another Northern California hospital on February 19 but it was four days before the CDC heeded a request to test the patient for COVID-19, according to an email sent to employees on Wednesday by the hospital’s interim CEO, Brad Simmons, and David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health.
The patient arrived on a ventilator and special protection orders were issued “because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition,” according to the email sent to employees.
The hospital asked the CDC to test for the coronavirus but testing was delayed until Sunday “since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19,” the email said.
With California concerned about that many cases the tech industry has also been hit with Facebook cancelling its annual conference for developers, F8.
The show is usually held in late April or early May in the San Francisco area. The company says it is planning other ways for its developer community to get together, including live streams, locally hosted events and videos. More than 5,000 people from around the world attended last year’s F8.
Japan’s entire school system, from elementary to high schools, will be asked to close from March 2 until their upcoming spring break late in the month to help contain the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.
The dramatic escalation of Japan’s fight against the virus followed rising criticism of what has been seen as a lukewarm government response.
“This coming week or two are an extremely important period,” Mr Abe told a coronavirus task force.
“Prioritising children health and safety above everything else, we will ask all the elementary, junior high and high schools across Japan to temporarily close from March 2 to spring break.”
The Japanese school year ends in March.
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Meanwhile, a Japanese woman working as a tour bus guide tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, having suffered from the virus previously and recovered, Osaka’s prefectural government said.
Her case, the first known sufferer in Japan, highlighted how much is still unknown about the virus.
The number of cases in Japan rose on Thursday to more than 200, up from the official tally of 186 late on Wednesday.
On the main northern island of Hokkaido, 15 new cases, including two children under the age of 10, were confirmed.
The Government has urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus while pledging that the 2020 Summer Olympics will go ahead in Tokyo.
Northern Ireland records first case as Europe beefs up bans
Northern Ireland authorities have confirmed their first case of coronavirus, with the British region’s chief medical officer Michael McBride telling media that the patient had travelled from Italy via Dublin.
The case is in addition to the 15 cases confirmed in the United Kingdom by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty earlier on Thursday.
That news comes as countries around Europe have increased measures to attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
Germany is trying to retroactively track down everyone who may have been exposed to an infected individual, by introducing airport landing cards for passengers arriving from the countries hit hardest by the virus.
The procedure started with China but has been expanded to include South Korea, Iran, Japan and Italy.
Slovakia is checking cars coming from Austria and everyone on flights into its three airports.
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US prosecutors have accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the US battle with the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
- Huawei has been accused of installing surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to identify protesters during anti-government demonstrations
- The US has been waging a campaign against Huawei, which it has warned could spy on customers for Beijing
- Last year the company was charged with bank and wire fraud, violating sanctions against Iran and obstructing justice
In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in New York, Huawei Technologies was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six US technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organised crime.
It also contains new allegations about the company’s involvement in countries subject to sanctions.
Among other accusations, it says Huawei installed surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.
The United States has been waging a campaign against Huawei, which it has warned could spy on customers for Beijing.
Washington placed the company on a trade blacklist last year, citing national security concerns.
The indictment is “part of an attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement”, the company said in a statement.
It called the racketeering accusation “a contrived repackaging of a handful of civil allegations that are almost 20 years old”.
Huawei pleaded not guilty to the earlier indictment unsealed against the company in January 2019, which charged it with bank and wire fraud, violating sanctions against Iran and obstructing justice.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged the United States to immediately stop suppressing Chinese companies without reason.
Such acts seriously damage the United States’ credibility and image, he said.
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December 2018 in Canada on charges in that indictment, causing an uproar in China and a chill in Canadian-Chinese relations.
She has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition.
There are no new charges against Ms Meng in the superseding indictment.
The new trade secret theft charges relate to internet router source code, cellular antenna technology, and robotics.
For example, beginning in 2000, Huawei and its subsidiary Futurewei Technologies are accused of misappropriating operating system source code for internet routers, commands used to communicate with the routers, and operating system manuals, from a company in Northern California.
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Huawei then sold their routers in the United States as lower-cost versions of the US company’s products, the indictment says.
Although the US company is not identified, Cisco Systems sued Huawei in Texas in 2003 over copyright infringement related to its routers.
Huawei is also accused of recruiting employees from other companies, making efforts to get intellectual property from those companies, and using professors at research institutions to obtain technology.
The US Commerce Department in May put Huawei on a trade blacklist that restricted US suppliers from selling parts and components to the company.
A leaked recording of an exchange between an Iranian air traffic controller and a pilot purports to show that authorities immediately knew a missile had downed a Ukrainian jetliner after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, despite days of denials.
- Both Ukraine and Iran have acknowledged the authenticity of the clip
- Authorities in Iran initially denied that the aircraft had been shot down
- Tehran has condemned the release of the recording as “unprofessional”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed the recording’s authenticity in a report aired by a Ukrainian television channel on Sunday night.
The head of the Iranian investigation team in Tehran, Hassan Rezaeifar, acknowledged the recording was legitimate and said that it was handed over to Ukrainian officials.
After the January 8 disaster, Iran’s civilian government maintained for days that it did not know the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had shot down the aircraft.
The downing of the jetliner came just hours after the IRGC launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US forces in retaliation for an earlier American drone strike that killed top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.
A transcript of the recording, published by Ukrainian 1+1 TV channel, contains a conversation in Farsi between an air-traffic controller and a pilot reportedly flying a Fokker 100 jet for Iran’s Aseman Airlines from Iran’s southern city of Shiraz to Tehran.
“A series of lights like … yes, it is a missile, is there something?” the pilot calls out to the controller.
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“No, how many miles? Where?” the controller asks.
The pilot responds that he saw the light by the Payam airport, near where the Guard’s Tor M-1 anti-aircraft missile was launched from.
The controller says nothing has been reported to them, but the pilot remains insistent.
“It is the light of a missile,” the pilot says.
“Don’t you see anything anymore?” the controller asks.
“Dear engineer, it was an explosion. We saw a very big light there, I don’t really know what it was,” the pilot responds.
The controller then tries to contract the Ukrainian jetliner, but unsuccessfully.
Publicly accessible flight-tracking radar information suggests the Aseman Airlines aircraft, flight 3768, was close enough to Tehran to see the blast.
Iranian civil aviation authorities for days insisted it was not a missile that brought down the plane, even after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US officials began saying they believed it had been shot down.
Iranian officials should have immediately had access to the air traffic control recordings and Mr Zelenskiy told 1+1 that “the recording, indeed, shows that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane was shot down by a missile, they were aware of this at the moment of the shooting”.
Ukraine’s President repeated his demands to decode the plane’s flight recorders in Kyiv — something Iranian officials had promised last month but later backtracked on.
Ukrainian investigators were to travel to Tehran to participate in the decoding effort, but Mr Zelenskiy insisted on bringing the so-called “black boxes” back to Kyiv.
“It is very important for us,” he said.
Iranian authorities, however, condemned the publication of the recording as “unprofessional,” saying it was part of a confidential report.
“This action by the Ukrainians makes us not want to give them any more evidence,” said Mr Rezaifar, the head of the Iranian investigators, according to a report by the semi-official Mehr news agency.
Global markets have rallied overnight, as fears of further escalation in the US-Iran conflict subsided for now. Wall Street rose and the Australian share market followed that positive lead.
- The ASX 200 closed 0.8 per cent higher at 6,874
- Most major banks and mining stocks rose
- The energy sector and gold miners lost ground
At the close of trade, the benchmark ASX 200 index was 0.8 per cent higher at 6,874.
Most blue chip stocks — such as three of the big four banks, BHP and Telstra — rose, while energy stocks lagged following a retreat in oil prices, with Brent crude falling as much as 4 per cent overnight.
During Australian and Asian trade yesterday, US stock market futures fell sharply, as Iran launched missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops.
Stocks across the region fell, before recovering some of the losses after US President Donald Trump did not deliver an immediate response and tweeted “all is well”.
US futures recovered and Wall Street rose strongly during the session, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hitting fresh record highs, before paring gains into the close.
Market snapshot at 8:20am (AEDT):
- ASX SPI futures +0.7pc at 6,798, ASX 200 (Wednesday’s close) -0.1pc at 6,817
- AUD: 68.70 US cents, 52.45 British pence, 61.84 Euro cents, 74.98 Japanese yen, $NZ1.03
- US: Dow Jones +0.6pc at 28,745, S&P 500 +0.5pc at 3,253, Nasdaq +0.7pc at 9,129
- Europe: FTSE 100 flat at 7,574, DAX +0.7pc at 13,320, CAC +0.3pc at 6,031, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.1pc at 3,424
- Commodities: Brent crude -3pc at $US66.20/barrel, spot gold -1.1pc at $US1,556.35/ounce
Shares in Boeing lost more than 1 per cent, after one of its planes crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.
In European trade, stocks rebounded from early losses.
Airlines reroute flights in Middle East
The oil price pullback will be good news for the fuel costs of global airlines, if it lasts, however, higher fuel bills may still be in store.
Qantas, along with international airlines including Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines have rerouted flights to avoid airspace over Iran and Iraq, due to the tensions with the US.
Airline analysts have told Reuters the longer journey times will increase fuel usage, throw off schedules and add to operating costs.
On Wednesday, Qantas said its Perth to London flight would have an increased flying time of 40 to 50 minutes due to its redirected flight path, and passenger numbers would need to be reduced in order to carry more fuel.
Iran has launched strikes against US troops in Iraq.
If you’re not sure exactly what’s going on, or why this is happening, this is the perfect place to start.
Let’s get you up to speed and answer five quick questions about the situation.
1. What has happened?
Iran has confirmed it launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at two military bases — Al Asad and Irbil in Iraq — that house US troops.
The Pentagon says the bases came under fire from “at least a dozen ballistic missiles” and it was clear the missiles were launched from Iran.
The US and Iraq both confirmed their forces did not suffer casualties from the strikes. Germany, Denmark, Norway and Poland also said none of their troops in Iraq were hurt.
2. Why has this happened?
On January 4, the United States killed Iran’s most powerful military general, Qassem Soleimani, by firing three missiles at Baghdad airport.
General Soleimani was the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and responsible for many of the nation’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
In a statement after the attack, the Pentagon said the strike was aimed at “deterring future Iranian attack plans” and it carried out the attack to “protect US personnel abroad”.
For context, academic Ranj Alaaldin described the attack as “bigger than taking out Osama bin Laden”.
On Tuesday millions of people attended funerals for General Soleimani, the first time Iran honoured a single person with a multi-city ceremony.
3. Is this actually the start of World War III?
It’s far too early to tell what might happen next, despite #WorldWarThree trending on social media in the days since the US killed General Soleimani.
Journalist with Al Jazeera based in Doha, and a former global affairs and Indigenous affairs analyst for the ABC, Stan Grant, wrote that Iran was dwarfed by the United States by any measure.
“Its population is a quarter the size of America’s, its economy is barely 2 per cent as large. Its outdated weapons are no match for the most powerful military force the world has ever known,” he wrote.
There are many moving parts to this story that are yet to play out, but Grant writes that World War III will look vastly different to World War I and II.
“A look around the world tells us we may already be in it,” he writes.
Get the full picture: You can read his full analysis of the situation here.
4. Are any Australians involved?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all Australian Defence Force and diplomatic personnel in Iraq were safe.
Mr Morrison said the Australian Government was monitoring the situation as it unfolds.
Australia’s National Security Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, but Mr Morrison said it would meet earlier if needed.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he had received a briefing on the situation from the Prime Minister, and said Australians were “located very close to where the Americans are located in the area”.
“They’re just next door,” Mr Albanese said.
5. What will happen next?
The frustrating answer is — we just don’t know. And we can’t do much but wait.
All eyes now turn back to the United States.
At a news conference, President Donald Trump said Iran appeared to be “standing down” and declared the US would impose further economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.
“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent,” he said.
He added that Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.
Crucially, Mr Trump stopped short of making any more threats of military actions.
Read more about the tensions between the US and Iran:
- Could tension between the US and Iran spark World War 3
- How capable is Iran’s military and what threat would it pose in a war
- Who was Qassem Soleimani and why is his death a watershed moment in the Middle East conflict
- Why did Donald Trump provoke Iran into striking US troops?
Supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups that stormed the US embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks during two days of protests have withdrawn after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Iran.
- Protesters obeyed a call to withdraw, issued by the Popular Mobilization Forces
- US President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate against Iran but said later he did not want to go to war
- Demonstrations began after US air strikes targeting an Iran-backed group killed at least 25 people
“All protesters have withdrawn, tents dismantled and other forms of demonstrating that accompanied these protests have ended, and the Iraqi security forces have completely secured the embassy perimeter,” The Iraqi military said in a statement on Wednesday (local time).
The demonstrators, angered over US air strikes against the Tehran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group that killed at least 25 people, threw stones at the building while US forces stationed on the rooftops fired tear gas to disperse them on Wednesday (local time).
But by mid-afternoon, most appeared to have obeyed a call to withdraw issued by the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) umbrella group of mainly Shiite militia, which said the demonstrators’ message had been heard.
Young men used palm tree branches to sweep the street in front of the embassy compound, while others packed up equipment and used vans to take people away.
US President Donald Trump — who faces re-election in 2020 — threatened on Tuesday to retaliate against Iran but said later he did not want war.
The unrest followed US air raids on Sunday against Kataib Hezbollah bases in retaliation for missile attacks last week that killed a US contractor in northern Iraq.
US sends extra troops
On Tuesday, crowds chanted “death to America!”, lit fires and smashed surveillance cameras.
They breached an outer perimeter of the embassy but did not enter the main compound.
The huge embassy, built on the banks of the Tigris River in central Baghdad’s fortified “green zone”, used during American occupation following the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, is the biggest US diplomatic mission in the world.
Washington said its diplomats were safe and that it was rushing hundreds of extra troops to the region.
US officials said 750 extra troops would initially be based out of Kuwait and as many as 4,000 troops could be sent to the region in coming days.
The embassy said all public consular operations were suspended and all future appointments cancelled.
The anti-American action comes after months of protests in Iraq against the Government and the Iran-backed militias that support it.
Many Iraqis have complained their country has become a battlefield for a proxy war for influence between Washington and Tehran, and that their leaders are too beholden to outside powers.
Iraq’s Government has long faced frictions in its close relations with the two foes. Mr Trump spoke to Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on Tuesday and demanded that Iraq protect the embassy.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday condemned the US attacks.
Iran summoned a Swiss envoy, who represents US interests in Tehran, to complain about what it described as “warmongering” words from Washington.
Mr Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the violence.
Overnight, demonstrators had pitched tents and camped outside the embassy walls, then brought food, cooking equipment and mattresses during the morning, indicating plans to stay before the withdrawal call.
“Our sit-in is eternal, until this devil’s den is closed off forever, but don’t give anyone an excuse to make your protest violent. Don’t clash with security,” one protest leader told the crowd.
Young men, some in fatigues, waved militia flags and chanted “death to America” as Apache helicopters circled above.
The embassy’s outer walls bore scorch marks and graffiti.
Despite decades of enmity between Iran and the US, Iran-backed militias and US forces found themselves on the same side during Iraq’s 2014-2017 war against Islamic State fighters, with both powers helping the government recapture territory from militants who had overrun a third of Iraq.
Since then, US troops have yet to leave, while the Iran-backed militias have been incorporated into the security forces.
Mr Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who has announced plans to step down in the face of anti-Government protests in which more than 450 people were killed, is backed by Iran and its allies.
The militia may have decided to pull back from the embassy to avoid making him look weak or to avert clashes with Government forces.
Hoy en mi ventana brilla el sol
Y el corazon
Se pone triste contemplando la ciudad
Porque te vas
Como cada noche desperté
Pensando en ti
Y en mi reloj todas las horas vi pasar
Porque te vas
Todas las promesas de mi amor se iran contigo
Junto a la estacion lloraré igual que un nino
Porque te vas
Porque te vas
Bajo la penumbra de un farol
Todas las cosas que quedaron por decir
Junto a las manillas de un reloj
Todas las horas que quedaron por vivir
Todas las promesas de mi amor se iran contigo
Junto a la estacion yo lloraré igual que un nino
Porque te vas
Porque te vas
Porque te vas
Junto a la estacion yo lloraré igual que un nino
Porque te vas
Porque te vas
Porque te vas