President Trump on Tuesday was pulled toward the kind of Middle East tinderbox he has tried to avoid, as he blamed Iran for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that further damaged U.S. relations with Baghdad and appeared to put Trump’s hopes for diplomacy with Tehran further out of reach.
Hundreds of supporters of an Iranian-backed militia chanted “Death to America” as they breached part of the outer security layer at the vast compound in Baghdad’s protected Green Zone.
U.S. diplomats were barricaded and unharmed inside the $750 million embassy, built as a powerful symbol of U.S. permanence after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Trump has derided as the worst U.S. foreign policy blunder. But the hulking structure may now serve as a symbol of how difficult it can be to disentangle U.S. interests from Iraq and the region despite the president’s stated desire to get out of “endless wars” and reduce the United States’ footprint in the Middle East.
Trump now faces a situation where the United States and Iran are elbowing for influence in Iraq as U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with some of Trump’s in-house advisers, urge a more forceful confrontation with Tehran over its aggressive tactics across the Middle East — a potentially combustible situation.
The president struck a bellicose tone Tuesday, but it’s unclear what moves he will make next as he feels the tug between taking a tough line with Iran and trying to avoid getting more involved in the region.
“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” Trump tweeted late Tuesday afternoon from Florida where he is spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “Happy new year!”
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights