Politics

US deploying 750 soldiers after protest at US Embassy in Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says

Key Points
  • The United States is immediately deploying about 750 soldiers to the Middle East in response to the violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday.
  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday blamed Iran for planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and promised to hold Tehran "fully responsible."
  • Iran denied it was behind the violent protests and warned against any retaliation.
Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense, attends a welcoming ceremony for joint chiefs of staff Chairman Mark Milley at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia.
Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States is immediately deploying about 750 soldiers to the Middle East in response to the violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday.

Esper said in a statement he had authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division.

"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," Esper said in a statement.

Apart from the immediate deployment, additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days, he said.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 750 troops would initially be based out of Kuwait. The officials said that as many as 4,000 troops could be sent to the region in the coming days if needed.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq supporting local forces.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday blamed Iran for planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and promised to hold Tehran "fully responsible."

"Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will," the president wrote on Twitter. "Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible."

"In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!" he added.

Iran denied it was behind the violent protests and warned against any retaliation. "American officials have the astounding audacity of attributing to Iran the protests of the Iraqi people against (Washington's) savage killing of at least 25 Iraqis ...," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement carried on a ministry website.

Trump's tweets came after dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and set fire to a reception area on the grounds earlier in the day.

The Iraqi supporters, many dressed in military apparel, pushed into the compound using cars to break through its gate. The protesters hung a poster on the wall saying, "America is an aggressor."

CNBC contributed to this report.

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