More United States Marines were deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, amid an unprecedented attack on an American diplomatic mission in Iraq.
Militiamen and their supporters were protesting against deadly U.S. air strikes over the weekend, and later stormed and torched a security post at the entrance of the U.S. embassy but did not breach the main compound.
U.S. officials said the Marines deployed from Kuwait were currently on the ground at the embassy to protect personnel who were huddled inside the facility.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the embassy "is, & has been for hours, SAFE!
Many of our great Warfighters, together with the most lethal military equipment in the world, was immediately rushed to the site.
Thank you to the President & Prime Minister of Iraq for their rapid response upon request...." The White House had said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that Trump, who is on a two-week working vacation in Palm Beach, Florida, spoke by phone to Iraq's prime minister to emphasize the need to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.
Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the violence in Baghdad, and went on to tweet: "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.
Happy New Year!" Tehran denied it was behind the attack on the embassy.
The protests, led by Iranian-backed militias, followed U.S. air strikes on Sunday that killed at least 25 fighters on bases operated by the Kataib Hezbollah, a group Washington considers to be a terrorist organization.
The strikes were retaliation for the killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.
Tuesday's attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq marked a sharp escalation of the proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran, and poses a new challenge for Trump as he enters the 2020 election year.
Democrats upset that Trump ditched the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama were quick to pounce on the incident as a failure of Trump's Iran policy.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said in a tweet: "Trump’s reckless decisions to walk away from the Iran Deal and now to launch airstrikes in Iraq without Iraqi government consent have brought us closer to war and endangered U.S. troops and diplomats.
We should end the forever wars, not start new ones." Trump also dismissed comparisons made on Twitter to the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which became a trending topic on the social media platform Tuesday.
In another pair of tweets, Trump said he was closely monitoring the situation and that it was: "The Anti-Benghazi!"