Around 750 American soldiers have been urgently deployed in Iraq as the protesters started attacking the US Embassy on Tuesday, December 31, 2019. Such military arrangement was followed in a view to resort to the prevailing threat of the violent protest against the US personnel and properties in Iraq. As revealed by a US military official, the US would send more soldiers if the situation got worse.
Iraqi Protestors Staged Against the US Strike
The Iraqi protest erupted after the US conducted an airstrike on Sunday, December 29, 2019, in those Iraqi military bases operated by the local militia group called ‘Kataib Hezbollah’ which is supposedly backed by Iran.
The US airstrike, which has led to the killing of at least 25 militants and wounded around 55 personnel, was a retaliation against the killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack last week. Washington had blamed that Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for the attack that killed the contractor. Following the US air attacks, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated in an Iranian state TV channel, “The Iranian government, nation and I strongly condemn the attacks.”
The US President, Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will.” Referring to the latest violent protest, Trump continued, “Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible.”
Trump further insisted that the Iraq Government must use its forces to protect the US Embassy from the attack by the Iran-back protestors. Iran denied Trump’s allegation of Iran’s involvement in the violent protest and warned the US against any retaliation.
Rejecting the US’ blame, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi condemned, “American officials have the astounding audacity of attributing to Iran the protests of the Iraqi people against (Washington’s) savage killing of at least 25 Iraqis …” The Washington-Tehran relationship is getting bitter over the recent event in Iraq which is likely to have a major impact in the Middle East.
US Plans to Deploy More Soldiers in Iraq
As Iraqi protests turned out to be violent, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday, “the US is immediately deploying about 750 soldiers to the Middle East in response to the violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.” Esper has authorized the deployment of an army battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division for the task.
Esper continued, “this deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today.” Besides this arrangement, the US is planning to deploy several additional forces from the IRF over the next several days.
According to US officials, “these 750 troops would initially be based out of Kuwait.” The officials mentioned that nearly 4,000 additional military personnel could be sent to the region in the coming days if the protests continued. As many as 5,000 US soldiers have been already posted in Iraq.
Opposing Trump’s tweets, dozens of Iraqi-Shiite supporters, holding a poster saying, “America is an aggressor,” had stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. As reported by Reuters, the protestors started pelting stones, smashing surveillance cameras and setting some areas of the embassy ablaze on Tuesday.
Many of the protestors wore the military outfits and made attempts to break the gate in a view to enter the compound. Senior Iraqi army officers had tried to negotiate with the crowd but failed to convince the protestors. As a response, the US security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd. As Reuters described, the crowd seemed intended to continue protest for the next several days as they started installing tents and camps outside the compound, bringing food supplies, and mattresses.
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