President Trump on Tuesday accused Iran of "orchestrating an attack" on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq after hundreds of protestors stormed the compound in Baghdad in a demonstration protesting U.S. airstrikes that killed more than 20 members of an Iranian-backed militia.
The president also called for Iraq to "use its forces to protect the Embassy."
Trump defended the decision to target the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah with airstrikes over the weekend, saying that attacks by the militia had led to the death of an American contractor.
"Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible," Trump said. "In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!"
The U.S. airstrikes came on Sunday after a missile attack on an Iraqi military base led to the death of an American contractor and injured several others. The strikes targeted the Kataib Hezbollah, which the U.S. accused of initiating the earlier attack, and killed 24 of its members.
Kataib Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the attack on the Iraqi military base, The New York Times noted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Miley traveled to Mar-a-Lago on Sunday to brief Trump about the incident and corresponding strikes.
Esper said the group discussed with the president what other options were available to deter "bad behavior" in the region.
Thousands of demonstrators and supporters of the militia on Tuesday demonstrated outside the Embassy compound and chanted "Death to America" to express anger over the attacks. Many protestors breached the main door to the embassy and set a fire in the reception area, leading to disposal of tear gas and gunfire, The Associated Press reported.
A Kataib Hezbollah militia spokesperson told The Washington Post that the motivation behind the protest was to lay siege to the embassy and force it the embassy to shut down in Baghdad.
The spat marked yet another spike in tensions between Iran and the U.S. after a year marked by them.
Trump tweeted in June that he had called off a military strike at the last moment after U.S. officials said Iran shot down an American drone.
The U.S. in September blamed Iran for an attack on Saudi oil facilities, again raising the prospect of conflict. But Trump has repeatedly tried to balance tough talk on Iran with his desire to avoid entangling the U.S. in additional foreign wars.