US Marines guarding the embassy fired tear gas on Thursday morning Australian time as more crowds arrived and lit a fire on the roof of the reception area. The protesters withdrew from the embassy late Wednesday.
“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” Mr Trump tweeted before his administration announced the immediate deployment of an infantry battalion of about 750 soldiers.
“They will pay a very big price!” he said. “This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
Over the weekend, the US carried out strikes on the positions of the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah in western Iraq in retaliation for rocket fire that killed an American civilian contractor at a military base in northern Iraq on Friday.
In another tweet, Trump accused Tehran of “orchestrating” that day’s storming of the US embassy in Baghdad by protesters angry over the American raid. Khamenei, not known to have ever directly addressed Trump on social media, responded by saying anti-US sentiment was rife in Iraq and Washington was responsible.
“That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad and we will respond to Iran,” he said, referring to Trump. “First: You can’t do anything. Second: If you were logical – which you’re not – you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan … have made nations hate you.
“If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight, it will do so unequivocally,” he wrote in his tweets to the US president. “We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, and glory.”
The two countries have been battling for influence in Iraq, which has tried since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003 to balance its ties between the foes.
Dozens of Iran-allied militiamen and their supporters had camped out at the gates of the embassy in Baghdad overnight, a day after they broke into the compound, trashing a reception area and smashing windows in one of the worst attacks on a US diplomatic mission in years.
The Population Mobilisation Forces (PMU) umbrella group issued a statement asking crowds to leave the embassy, and while most left, a small number stayed. Kataib Hezbollah said that this was only the “first message to the US” and that the next step will be to expel US troops from the country.
“America is the great Satan,” they chanted, and “death to America” – echoing the chants of Iranian revolutionaries who held US diplomats hostage in Tehran 40 years ago.
Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, told Fox News that there were no plans to take its diplomats out of Baghdad or to withdraw any of the 5000 troops in the country.
“We’re going to make sure that we do everything we can to keep that facility safe and secure and have the resources to push back against anything that may confront us there,” he said.
Pompeo has postponed a trip to Ukraine so he could focus on the situation in Iraq.
Telegraph, London; with AAP