Tag: Tehran-backed Kataib Hezbollah
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Iraqi paramilitary groups that stormed the US embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks during two days of protests have withdrawn after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Iran.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“All protesters have withdrawn, tents dismantled and other forms of demonstrating that accompanied these protests have ended, and the Iraqi security forces have completely secured the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.