Iraqi Protesters Retreat From US Embassy In Baghdad

Wednesday, January 1, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
ZeroHedge.com
Wed, 01/01/2020

In the end, calls for a second “Benghazi” proved grossly unfounded.

An attempt by supporters of Iran-backed militias to storm the heavily fortified US Embassy in Baghdad went into retreat Wednesday, as American troops reinforced the besieged compound and as protesters withdrew from the area after their leadership ordered the suspension of a violent challenge to American troop presence in Iraq (where US troops have been stationed for nearly two decades).

The retreat was instigated by paramilitary leaders from the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is part of the Iraqi security apparatus and an umbrella body for dozens of militia groups including factions aligned with Iran. The PMF said protesters demanding the expulsion of American troops from Iraq had delivered their message to the US.

According to the WSJ, dozens of protesters who had camped overnight on New Year’s Eve near the gates of the U.S. Embassy began to dismantle their tents following the PMF’s call to withdraw. Earlier, they had appeared to be in for the long haul, setting up portable bathrooms and a podium. The PMF said the protest site would be moved to the other side of the Tigris River, which bisects Baghdad—still within sight of the embassy. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces took up positions around the embassy.


Iraqi soldiers stand guard in front of the U.S. Embassy as Iran-backed militia supporters take part in a sit-in outside the gates of the embassy on Wednesday. Photo: Zuma Press

The withdrawal was intended “to preserve the authority of the state” and “out of respect for the government’s decision” protesters should move away from the embassy, according to the PMF, which ordered the crowds at the embassy to withdraw, claiming that their “message has been heard.”

Separately, President Trump spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi overnight and declared the embassy safe, saying the Iraqi government had “stepped up.” He blamed the assault on the U.S. outpost on Iran.

Footage from Ruptly showed protesters with Hezbollah flags withdrawing in their vehicles. It was not immediately clear from the video how many have remained at the scene of clashes, where tear gas and stun grenades were reportedly fired again on Wednesday.

“We decided to leave after our superiors received an urgent request from [Prime Minister] Abdul-Mahdi himself asking us to because… there is a lot of pressure on him now,” said a senior member of Kataib Hezbollah who declined to be named.

“Abdul-Mahdi is on our side and has been helping us a lot, so we don’t want to harm him or cause him problems,” he added.

A day earlier, supporters and members of Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias attempted to violently force their way into the US Embassy compound located inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, but failed to break in. Enraged by Sunday’s US airstrikes against the Kataib Hezbollah militia, the crowd lit fires and pelted the embassy with stones. Shortly after, a contingent of US Marines arrived on Tuesday night to bolster security. The attack prompted the U.S. to deploy military reinforcements and exposed the power of Tehran’s allies in Iraq.

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