Militiamen withdraw from US Embassy but Iraq tensions linger

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iran-backed militiamen have withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after two days of clashes with American security forces.

The 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg, N.C., is deploying to counter recent threats. (Source: 82nd Airborne Facebook)

There were no casualties or evacuations Wednesday, but U.S.-Iran tensions remain high and could spill over into further violence.

Hundreds of militiamen and their supporters attacked the embassy compound on Tuesday, protesting U.S. airstrikes against an Iran-backed militia that killed 25 fighters.

The U.S. blamed the militia for a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that killed a U.S. contractor.

The violence came as Iran and its allies across the region face unprecedented mass protests amid heavy U.S. sanctions that have cratered Iran’s economy.

U.S. troops have fired tear gas to disperse pro-Iran protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad for a second day.

The protesters set fire to a reception area and hurled stones over the walls on Wednesday. Iraqi security forces deployed along the fence of the embassy compound.

Following Tuesday’s attack, President Donald Trump ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East with about 3,000 more preparing for possible deployment in the next several days.

U.S. Marines were immediately sent from Kuwait to reinforce the compound.

In announcing the new deployment, Defense Secretary Mark Esper didn’t say specifically where the infantry battalion from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would be heading. But a U.S. official tells The Associated Press they will go to Kuwait and that a full brigade of about 4,000 soldiers may eventually be sent.

The developments were a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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