Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Tuesday that the U.S. will send additional forces to Baghdad to protect the American embassy from attacks by Iraqi Shiite militia supporters. In a Tuesday night tweet, he wrote that 750 soldiers would “deploy to the region immediately” and more forces from the Immediate Response Force would be prepared to deploy over the coming days. “This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” he wrote.
The protesters reportedly breached the main gate of the embassy, lit fires, threw bricks, barged into several reception rooms, and chanted “death to America.” The demonstrations were prompted by airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by U.S. forces against five facilities, which the Pentagon said have links to an Iran-backed militia group dubbed Kataib Hezbollah. The group is blamed for attacks on Iraqi military facilities, including one on Friday that killed an American contractor. Esper, in an earlier Tuesday announcement, said the U.S. has “taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats” in Iraq.