HUNDREDS of Iraqi members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and their supporters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad for the second day in response to US airstrikes earlier in the week which claimed the lives of fighters who were stationed on the Iraq/Syria border.
As many as 31 fighters from the popular forces lost their lives and dozens more sustained injuries in the US airstrikes that targeted their bases in Anbar Province, in western Iraq, near Syria’s border, late Sunday.
The PMF is an umbrella grouping of paramilitary organisations that mostly consists of Iranian-backed Shia militias and is integrated into Iraq’s armed forces.
The protesters managed to get up onto the roof of the reception area yesterday. They set fire to the building and billows of black smoke rose into the air. Protesters firebombed a second gate, setting it on fire as well.
They hurled stones at the United States embassy, while security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to drive them away.
The protesters first stormed the embassy on New Year’s Eve, which is in the centre of the heavily fortified Green Zone. Dozens had camped out at the gates of the embassy where they stayed the night.
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters on Tuesday as they marched to the heavily fortified Green Zone after a funeral for those killed in the US airstrikes, nor did they intervene on Wednesday as the protest resumed.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei condemned the US attacks in a statement broadcast on Iranian State TV yesterday.
‘You are witnessing what they, the Americans, are doing in Iraq and Syria. They are taking revenge on Hashd al-Sha’abi because it paralysed and eventually eliminated Daesh, which they, the Americans, had created and nurtured,’ the Leader said at a meeting on yesterday.
Ayatollah Khamenei said, ‘I myself, the government and the nation of Iran condemn the US malevolence in the strongest of terms.’
Ayatollah Khamenei further responded to a tweet by Donald Trump, in which the US president threatened that ‘Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE!’
‘For one thing,’ Khamenei said, ‘you are damned wrong because this matter has nothing to do with Iran. And for another, you ought to be reasonable and try to understand what the root causes of these incidents are.’
‘The Americans must realise how the regional people, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, hate them for the crimes they have perpetrated, and that this hatred would eventually seep out somewhere,’ Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out.
The Leader went on to say, ‘If Iran decides to confront a country, it will do so openly. But everyone must know that we are strongly committed to the country’s interests and the Iranian nation’s dignity, grandeur and progress, and we shall not hesitate to intervene and deal a blow to any party who attempts to pose a threat to the country.’