Iranian militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, one of several identified as leading an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, reportedly visited the White House in 2011 during the presidency of Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, a mob in Baghdad attacked the U.S. embassy in retaliation against last weekend’s U.S. airstrikes against the Iran-backed Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah (KH), responsible for killing an American civilian contractor. KH is one of a number of pro-Iran militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU), which legally became a wing of the Iraqi military after fighting the Sunni Islamic State terrorist group.
President Donald Trump has since accused Iran of having “orchestrated” the embassy attack and stated that the government would be “held fully responsible.”
Breitbart News reporter John Hayward described the attack on the embassy, writing:
The mob grew into thousands of people, led by openly identified KH supporters, some of them wearing uniforms and waving militia flags. The attack began after a funeral service for the 25 KH fighters killed by the U.S. airstrikes. Demonstrators marched through the streets of Baghdad carrying photos of the slain KH members and Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who condemned the American airstrikes.
KH vowed to seek revenge for the airstrikes on Monday. Both KH and the Iranian military unit that supports it, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have been designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. The government of Saudi Arabia also described KH as one of several “terrorist militias supported by the Iranian establishment” in remarks on Tuesday condemning the assault on the U.S. embassy.
The attackers were able to smash open a gate and push into the embassy compound, lighting fires, smashing cameras, and painting messages such as “Closed in the name of resistance” on the walls. Gunshots were reportedly heard near the embassy, while tear gas and stun grenades were deployed by its defenders.
A uniformed militia fighter on the scene in Baghdad told Kurdish news service Rudaw that attacks were also planned against the U.S. consulates in Erbil and Basra, with the goal of destroying the consulates and killing everyone inside.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that among those agitating protesters in Baghdad on Tuesday was Hadi al-Amiri, a former transportation minister with close ties to Iran who leads the Badr Corps, another PMF militia.
In 2011, both Fox News and the Washington Times noted that then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought his transportation minister, al-Amiri, to a meeting at the White House. The Times noted that the White House did not confirm his attendance, but the official was on Iraq’s listed members of its delegation.
The al-Amiri accompanying al-Maliki, besides also being transportation minister, was identified at the time as a commander of the Badr organization, further indicating it was the same person. At the time, the outlets expressed concern that al-Amiri had ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the FBI has stated played a role in a 1996 terrorist attack that killed 19 U.S. servicemen. President Donald Trump designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization, the first time an official arm of a foreign state received the designation.
Fox News’ Ed Henry questioned White House Press Secretary Jay Carney following the visit about the attendance of al-Amiri at the White House. Carney refused to answer and stating that he would need to investigate the issue. The full transcript from RealClearPolitics reads:
Ed Henry, FOX News: When Prime Minister Maliki was here this week there have been reports that a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which U.S. officials say played a role in a 1996 terrorist attack that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
He was here at the White House with Prime Minister Maliki because he’s a transportation minister, yeah, transportation minister —
Jay Carney, WH: Who’s [sic] report is that?
Henry: I believe the Washington Times has reported it. I think others have as well, but I think this is a Washington Times —
Carney: I have to take that question then, I’m not aware of it.
Henry: Can you just answer it later though, whether he was here and whether a background check had been done?
Carney: I’ll check on it for you.
Henry: Okay, thanks.
In 2016, Obama secured a deal with Iran which included a payment of $1.7 billion in cash. Breitbart News reporter John Hayward reported in September of 2016:
On Tuesday, the Obama administration finally admitted something its critics had long suspected: The entire $1.7 billion tribute paid to Iran was tendered in cash — not just the initial $400 million infamously shipped to the Iranians in a cargo plane — at the same moment four American hostages were released.
“Treasury Department spokeswoman Dawn Selak said in a statement the cash payments were necessary because of the ‘effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions,’ which isolated Iran from the international finance system,” said ABC News, relating what might be one of history’s strangest humblebrags. The sanctions Obama threw away were working so well that he had to satisfy Iran’s demands with cold, hard cash!
By the way, those sanctions were not entirely related to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy pointed out at National Review last month, they date back to Iran’s seizure of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, its support for “Hezbollah’s killing sprees,” and, most pertinently, Bill Clinton’s 1995 invocation of “federal laws that deal with national emergencies caused by foreign aggression,” by which he meant Iran’s support for international terrorism.
Former white house staffer during the Obama administration, Ben Rhodes, blamed President Trump’s policies for the Tuesday attack on the U.S. embassy.
Trump sanctions on Iran have done nothing to change Iranian behavior except make it worse. This is what happens when your foreign policy is based on Obama envy, domestic politics, Saudi interests, and magical right wing thinking. https://twitter.com/amichaistein1/status/1211731826890412033 …Amichai Stein✔@AmichaiStein1#BREAKING: US official tells me: New Iran-related sanctions will be announced “In the next 24 hours”5,8647:43 AM – Dec 31, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy3,331 people are talking about this
Many have hit back at Rhodes for the accusations, including former CIA ops officer Bryan Dean Wright.
As you attack Trump’s foreign policy, Iranian militia members are — at this very moment — attacking American soldiers using the $1.7B cash you and Team Obama sent to Tehran.
What a time to be self righteous. https://twitter.com/brhodes/status/1211991305208905729 …Ben Rhodes✔@brhodesTrump sanctions on Iran have done nothing to change Iranian behavior except make it worse. This is what happens when your foreign policy is based on Obama envy, domestic politics, Saudi interests, and magical right wing thinking. https://twitter.com/amichaistein1/status/1211731826890412033 …5,0898:09 AM – Dec 31, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy2,825 people are talking about this
Trump says Iran will be held ‘fully responsible’ for attack on the US embassy in Iraq
- “Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” President Trump wrote on Twitter.
- His tweet came after dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad shouting “Down, Down, USA!”
- The Iraqi protest followed deadly U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, carried out in retaliation for the killing of an American contractor.
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 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. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!121K7:02 AM – Dec 31, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy47.7K people are talking about this
Trump’s tweet 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.”
Though the mob stopped short of entering the main building of the compound, many shouted “Down, Down, USA!” and flung water and rocks over the embassy walls. About 30 Iraqi soldiers in armored vehicles arrived near the embassy hours after the violence, according to an Associated Press report.
The attack followed deadly U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, carried out in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that American officials blamed on the militia.
“The President is in close touch with his national security team and is receiving regular updates,” said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. “As the President said, Iran is orchestrating this attack and they will be held fully responsible. It will be the President’s choice how and when we respond to their escalation.”
Trump also spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi and emphasized the need to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, the White House said in a statement later Tuesday.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the U.S. would be sending additional troops to the compound to assist in its protection.
“We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy. As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so,” he said in a statement.
“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense,” Esper added.
The U.S. strikes over the weekend were the latest to target the Iraqi state-sanctioned and Iranian-backed militia and appear to mark the start of a more fierce power struggle between the U.S. and Iran throughout the Middle East.
While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday’s strikes were designed to convey that the White House will not turn a blind eye to actions taken by Iran that jeopardize American lives, the Iraqi government deemed the attack a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty and said it will reexamine its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition.