Iraqi leadership assured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday they would “guarantee the safety and security of U.S. personnel and property,” the State Department said, after protesters breached the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Pompeo talked to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi and President Barham Salih separately by phone from his office in Washington, D.C., State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“The secretary made clear the United States will protect and defend its people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq,” she said. “Both Abdul-Mahdi and Salih assured the secretary that they took seriously their responsibility for and would guarantee the safety and security of U.S. personnel and property.”
Thousands of demonstrators and supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday in response to U.S. airstrikes over the weekend on that militia. Demonstrators, some of whom were militia commanders or in militia uniform, chanted “Death to America” and set fire to the compound’s reception area, leading to disposal of tear gas and gunfire, according to reports from the ground.
On Sunday, the United States struck five Kata’ib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 25 militia fighters, in response to a Friday rocket attack on an Iraqi military base. The Friday attack, which the United States blamed on the militia, killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.
Kata’ib Hezbollah is part of a group of Iraqi militias collectively known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The Iraqi government has worked to incorporate the PMFs into its security forces, but the United States considers the PMFs to be Iranian proxies.
Earlier Tuesday, President Trump accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack” on the embassy, warning “they will be held fully responsible.”
“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!” Trump added in his tweet.
The Iraqi government, which on Monday issued a blistering statement condemning the U.S. strikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah, on Tuesday pledged to respond to “any act of aggression or harassment” against an embassy.
“While we condemn the US air strikes on Iraqi military units, and acknowledge that symbolic funeral marches for the martyrs is a solemn act of remembrance, those taking part must stay away from diplomatic buildings and compounds,” al-Mahdi said in a statement.
“Iraqi security forces will respond to any act of aggression or harassment against foreign embassies in Iraq, and those responsible will face the full force of the law,” he added.