Iraqi militias and their supporters had completely withdrawn from the massive U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad by Wednesday evening after Iraq's government asked them to leave and an umbrella group of state-allied militias called for the withdrawal. Helicopters of U.S. Marines arrived overnight to help guard the main area of the embassy complex. U.S. forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the rock-throwing protesters, who had breached an outer gate Tuesday and set fire to a reception area, among other damage.
The militias, many backed by Iran, appeared prepared to camp outside the embassy on Wednesday morning. They declared a sort of victory upon decamping to outside the Green Zone. "We pulled out from this place triumphantly," Fadhil al-Gezzi, a militia supporter, told The Associated Press. "We rubbed America's nose in the dirt." The politically powerful militias, with little resistance from Iraqi security forces, had stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone and U.S. embassy in response to U.S. airstrikes Sunday that killed at least 25 members of one of the militias, Kataib Hezbollah.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to monitor the situation from Washington. President Trump, who blamed Iran for the attack, ordered about 750 soldiers to the Middle East, and more than 4,000 additional troops could join them in coming days. Some 5,200 U.S. troops are already in Iraq, and the Iran-backed protesters said one of their goals in storming the embassy was to push for the removal of the U.S. forces. Since May, Trump has sent more than 14,000 troops to the Persian Gulf area to counter Iran.
Before Sunday's U.S. airstrikes, condemned by Iraq's government, Baghdad had been buffeted by months of separate deadly street protests against Iran's political influence in Iraq. "Iran has been trying to provoke the U.S. into helping it solve its Iraq problem," said the Crisis Group think tank. "The Trump administration, by responding to the attacks in Kirkuk and elsewhere with airstrikes, has obliged."