In Iraq, members of an Iranian-backed militia and its supporters have withdrawn from the Green Zone after a two-day standoff outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The militia members broke into a gatehouse at the perimeter of the sprawling embassy Tuesday, setting fire to the structure. On Wednesday, U.S. troops tear-gassed the militia members. The militia withdrew after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi pledged to pursue legislation to force U.S. troops out of Iraq. This is Mohammed al-Haydari of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Mohammed al-Haydari: ’”The American troops in Iraq are supposed to either train Iraqi forces or to combat terrorism, but the killing of members of the Hashd al-Shaabi, this is something unacceptable. So, for this reason, we are coming here, until the U.S. troops leave Iraq.”
The embassy standoff came after the United States launched a slew of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria Sunday that killed at least 24 members of the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Hezbollah. The Iraqi prime minister had warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper against the airstrikes, which came as retaliation after an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, Iraq, Friday. The Pentagon has now sent 750 more troops to the Middle East, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has delayed a trip to Ukraine and four other nations.
The showdown at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad comes amid months of anti-government protests in Iraq. These protesters say they were not part of the showdown at the U.S. Embassy and that they are opposed to corruption and Iranian influence in Iraq.