WH Talks Tough After Protesters Storm U.S. Embassy Compound In Baghdad

TOPSHOT - Members the Hashed al-Shaabi, a mostly Shiite network of local armed groups trained and armed by powerful neighbour Iran, smash the bullet-proof glass of the US embassy's windows in Baghdad after breaching ... TOPSHOT - Members the Hashed al-Shaabi, a mostly Shiite network of local armed groups trained and armed by powerful neighbour Iran, smash the bullet-proof glass of the US embassy's windows in Baghdad after breaching the outer wall of the diplomatic mission on December 31, 2019 to vent their anger over weekend air strikes that killed pro-Iran fighters in western Iraq. - It was the first time in years protesters have been able to reach the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, which is sheltered behind a series of checkpoints in the high-security Green Zone. Arabic writing on the wall reads: "The people say no, no, to America" (top) and the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, General Qassem "Suleimani is my leader". (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 31, 2019 12:11 p.m.

The White House described protesters’ attack of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad as an “escalation” on Tuesday, but it was unclear what if any action President Donald Trump would take in response.

“It will be the president’s choice how and when we respond to their escalation,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told several outlets Tuesday, referring to Iran, which the administration blamed for orchestrating the attack.

Trump exercised his usual bellicosity on Twitter.

The attack followed a turbulent weekend in Iraq. On Friday, an American contractor in the country was killed and several soldiers injured by a rocket attack that American officials blamed, along with other attacks in recent weeks, on an Iranian-backed militia. The U.S. subsequently carried out several airstrikes targeting the militia, Kataib Hezbollah.

Following funerals for those killed by the airstrikes — at least two dozen fighters were reportedly killed and dozens more injured — dozens of protesters breached the American embassy compound on Tuesday.

The protesters’ ability to storm the embassy area suggested “at least tacit permission” from Iraqi security officials, The New York Times reported.

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.

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