Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Holidaze: Feels Like 40 Years Ago

The US Embassy in Baghdad is under siege by hundreds of Iraqi protesters after the US responded to the death of a US military contractor at an Iraqi military base with missile strikes that killed more than 40.

Supporters of an Iranian-backed militia besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes, breaking through the first layer of security at the embassy compound and damaging a reception area before being expelled by Iraqi security forces. Here’s what we know:

  • U.S. diplomats took refuge in a safe room as guards fired tear gas at the invading protesters and tried to put out fires they set.
  • President Trump accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack” on the embassy, and the Pentagon said it was sending reinforcements to help protect it.
  • Iraqi security forces later intervened and set up a barricade, but protesters threw gasoline bombs into the compound.
  • The Kataib Hezbollah militia vowed to force the embassy to shut down.

Hundreds of angry supporters of an Iranian-backed militia shouting "Death to America" broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, trapping diplomats inside in response to U.S. airstrikes that killed or wounded scores of militia fighters.

Tensions eased somewhat later in the day after Iraqi security forces intervened, erecting a steel barrier at the smashed gate into the compound's reception area and forcing the protesters to leave. However, protesters outside periodically threw molotov cocktails into the compound and tried to tear down the razor wire atop its walls, as guards inside fired stun grenades at them.

The protesters breached the vast embassy compound's outer security but did not reach the main chancery building where diplomats waited out the intrusion in a safe room.

President Trump responded angrily Tuesday to the protesters' actions, charging that Iran was behind a deadly militia attack that led to the airstrikes and blaming Tehran for the embassy siege.

"Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many," Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. "We strongly responded, and always will. 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!"

The US State Department is basically denying everything about any possible breach of the embassy's outer grounds and says there are no plans to evacuate.  Meanwhile, Tang the Conqueror is golfing at Mar-A-Lago again and some cruise missile strikes on Iranian targets would be a great way for him to wrap himself in the flag heading into any impeachment trial.

This is a pretty dangerous situation.  Both sides have considerable reason to want escalation here and the protesters never would have been able to get past the outer embassy security without help from Iraqi security forces, at least initially.

Trump has every reason to make this worse.

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