Protesters burn property in front of the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Iranian-supported attack on the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, supported by Iran, is a vivid demonstration that Iran can still strike American interests despite a campaign of economic pressure from President Donald Trump. Trump said Iran would be “fully responsible” for this attack, but it was unclear whether this meant military retaliation.

The violation of the complex, which prompted the United States to send military reinforcements but did not cause known casualties or evacuations to the United States, also revealed growing tensions between Washington and Baghdad, raising questions about the future of the US military mission there. The United States has approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train and assist the Iraqi forces in combating Islamic extremists.

The violation followed US air strikes on Sunday, killing 25 militants of the Iran-supported Hezbollah Kataeb militia in Iraq. The United States said these strikes were in response to the killing of an American contractor last week and the wounding of US and Iraqi troops as a result of a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that the United States accused of militias. The American attacks angered the Iraqi government, which called them an unjustified violation of its sovereignty.

Trump accused Iran of violating the embassy and called on Iraq to protect diplomatic representation, even when the United States strengthened its connection with the marines from Kuwait.

“Iran killed an American contractor, injuring many,” he tweeted in Florida. “We resolutely answered and always will be. Iran is currently organizing an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. They will be fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the embassy, ​​and therefore received a notification! ”

Even though Trump advocated the withdrawal of US troops from Middle East conflicts, he also singled out Iran as a harmful influence in the region. After the United States withdrew from an international agreement in 2018 that replaced the easing of sanctions with the deterrence of Iran’s nuclear program, Trump tightened sanctions.

These economic sanctions, including the virtual cessation of Iranian oil exports, are aimed at forcing Iran to agree on a broader nuclear agreement. But critics say the pressure has forced Iranian leaders to withstand various military attacks in the Persian Gulf.

Prior to Sunday’s US airstrikes, Trump was restrained in his response to Iranian provocations. In June, he suddenly canceled U.S. military strikes against Iranian targets in response to a U.S. drone crash.

Robert Ford, a retired US diplomat who spent five years in Baghdad and then became ambassador to Syria, said Iran’s allies in the Iraqi parliament could use any surge of anger among Iraqis against the United States to force US troops to leave the country, Ford said. Trump miscalculated by approving Hezbollah’s Sunday airstrikes in Kataeb in Iraq and Syria – strikes that provoked a public rebuke from the Iraqi government and seemed to provoke an embassy attack in second Nick.

“The Americans have fallen into an Iranian trap,” said Ford, delivering air strikes that directed some of Iraq’s anger toward the United States and away from Iran and Iran’s increasingly unpopular Shiite militias.

The tense situation in Baghdad seemed to upset Trump’s daily routine in Florida, where he spends his vacations.

Trump spent a little less than an hour at his West Palm Beach private golf club, and then returned to his Mar-a-Lago resort in nearby Palm Beach. Each of the previous two days he spent almost six hours in his golf club. Trump spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and emphasized the need to protect Iraq by the Americans and their facilities in the country, White House spokesman Hogan Gidli said.

Trump is under pressure from some members of Congress to take a tough approach to Iran’s aggression, which, according to the United States, includes an unprecedented unmanned and missile attack on the center of the Saudi oil industry in September. More recently, Iran-supported militias in Iraq conducted numerous rocket attacks on the bases at which US forces were stationed.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and a supporter of Trump’s policy toward Iran, described the violation of the embassy as “another reckless escalation” by Iran.

On Tuesday, an Iran-backed Hatbollah militia attack with Iran’s support was attacked. Dozens of policemen and their supporters smashed the front door to the complex and set fire to the reception room, but did not enter the main buildings.

Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Iran of the episode and accused Trump of his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

“So far, the result has been an increase in threats to international trade, an increase and more severe proxy attacks in the Middle East, and now the death of an American citizen in Iraq,” Menendez said, referring to a missile attack on an Iraqi base nearby. Kirkuk killed an American contractor last week and wounded US and Iraqi soldiers.

By Tuesday evening, the crowd retreated from the complex, but set up several tents on the street for an alleged sit-in. Dozens of yellow flags belonging to Iran-supported Shiite militias fluttered over the front desk and were hung along the concrete wall of the embassy along with anti-USA. graffiti. US Apache helicopters flew overhead and dropped rockets over the area, which the US military called a “show of strength.”

The United States also sent 100 or more additional Marines to the embassy building to support its defense.

Some analysts felt that a violation of the embassy confirmed their view that the US was reckless to keep forces in Iraq after the liquidation of the territorial possession of an Islamic state group in the country.

The US withdrawal from Iraq is also Iran’s long-term hope, said Paul Salem, president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

And it is always possible that Trump “wakes up one morning and makes this decision” to withdraw US troops from Iraq, as he had previously announced in connection with the US military presence in neighboring Syria, Salem said. Trump’s decision on Syria provoked the resignation of his first secretary of defense, retired general Jim Mattis, but the president later changed his mind and about 1,200 US soldiers remain in Syria.

Trump’s best weapon in relations with Iran is the one he is already using – sanctions, Salem said. He and Ford said Trump would do his best to continue to resist Iran’s attempt to turn Iran-USA. full-scale military conflict. According to Ford, the administration should also work with the Iraqi government to combat militias.

For the president, Iran’s attacks – directly, and now through proxies in Iraq – “worked,” Salem said. “Now they really got Trump’s attention.”


Associated Press authors Matthew Lee, Darlene Superville and Sagar Megani contributed to this report.

Ellen Knickmeyer

Robert Burns