Crossing the line: Iran-backed militia attacks the US embassy in Baghdad

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Today, hundreds of Iraqi protestors assaulted the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. They smashed through the gates and set fires inside the embassy compound.

Sources report that the attack on the US embassy is in response to the US airstrikes on Sunday. It is unclear at this time if the Iraqi government is moving to defend the embassy.

Iran-backed militia rocket attacks start the current conflict

The embassy attack is not an isolated incident but is rather the latest action in a series of events that started with multiple rocket attacks on facilities housing US personnel, the latest of which killed an American contractor and wounded US and Iraqi military personnel in Kirkuk, Iraq.

The US believes that the rockets are being launched by Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militias. There have been at least 10 rocket attacks recently on facilities housing US military personnel. The US has been warning Iran to cease the rocket attacks.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Kataib Hezbollah is backed by Iran.

Kataib Hezbollah is one of the most important of the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and a group with an extensive role in the Middle East, linking it to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and operations in Syria. Formed between 2003 and 2007 by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis it is a creature of Iran’s IRGC.

The Jerusalem Post on the leader of Kataib Hezbollah: “Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis is the leader of Kataib Hezbollah. An Iraqi, he was born in Basra and fled to Iran in the 1980s during Saddam Hussein’s crackdown on Shi’ites. He signed on to fight with Iran’s IRGC and became a close colleague of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force. He was linked to the military wing of Iraq’s Dawa party at the same time, illustrating his influence among Iraqi Shi’ites in Iran.”

Iraq has a responsibility to defend US military and embassy personnel

According to Politico: “The U.S. maintains about 5,000 troops in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation, helping local troops fight the Islamic State insurgency. With that few troops, the U.S. military relies heavily on the Iraqi government for protection, according to Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has been asking the Iraqi government to help stop the rocket attacks.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave warning in December that the US would take action if the attacks did not stop. “We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response,” Pompeo warned

US responds with airstrikes

The US did retaliate on Sunday with an airstrike against Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian backed militia. 25 militia members were killed and more than 50 were injured.

An immediate cry was raised that the US was violating Iraqi sovereignty, but US officials pointed out that it was Iran that was backing the rocket attacks. US officials also argue that the Iraqi government had asked the US to be there and it was their responsibility to protect US personnel. The US had been warning the Iraqi government to fulfill their responsibilities.

President Trump defends the US airstrikes: 

Secretary Pompeo defends the US airstrikes:

100 US Marines are en route to the embassy. Apache helicopters have also been sent to defend the embassy.

President Trump calls on the Iraqi people to fight back against Iran

President Trump called on the people of Iraq to fight against the Iranian influence in Iraq.

For more background on the US-Iran conflict go here.

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