PRESS TV.COM Tues., Dec.31, 2019
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday that the United States was sending additional forces to its embassy in Baghdad, and called on the Iraqi government to help protect American personnel.
“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense,” Esper said in a statement.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held phone conversations with the caretaker premier and President Barham Salih, warning that Washington will “defend its people,” according to a State Department statement.
The two Iraqi leaders also assured Pompeo “that they took seriously their responsibility for and would guarantee the safety and security of US personnel and property.”
‘US unwanted in Iraq’
Hashd al-Shabi commander Faleh al-Fayyadh and Kata’ib Hezbollah commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes along with other senior Hashd leaders were among the protesters.
Speaking to Reuters, Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq — another PMU faction — said “Americans are unwanted in Iraq. They are a source of evil and we want them to leave.”
Many protesters have set up tents, announcing plans for an indefinite sit-in until the embassy is closed and the ambassador expelled from the country.
Earlier in the day, Iraqi lawmakers chanted anti-US slogans during a parliamentary session.
Trump blames Iran
Reacting to the developments in Iraq, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Iran was to blame and would be held “fully responsible.”
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq.”
Those casualties came in what the US described as a rocket attack targeting a military base located near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Friday. Washington pointed the finger at Iran for that attack, an allegation vehemently rejected by Tehran.