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Iran-backed militia end the Baghdad U.S. embassy siege

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on January 1, 2020 - Duration: 02:07s

Iran-backed militia end the Baghdad U.S. embassy siege

Leaders of the Iran-backed paramilitary groups tied to violent protesters surrounding the U.S. embassy in Baghdad have convinced supporters to leave the area.

In Washington, the political fallout has been swift.

Matthew Larotonda reports.

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Iran-backed militia end the Baghdad U.S. embassy siege

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "This will not be a 'Benghazi.'

Benghazi should never have happened.

This will never, ever be a Benghazi." The Iran-backed paramilitary groups tied to violent protests laying siege to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad have now convinced their supporters to withdraw.

After the U.S. deployed hundreds of additional troops, from a unit created as a response to the 2012 Libya consulate disaster.

Mohammed al-Haydari is a ranking member of the coalition known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The PMF leadership says their message has been heard, and never intended for violence.

The Americans are there to train Iraqi forces or combat terrorism, he says, and the killing of PMF members is unacceptable.

The U.S. air strikes that targeted the Kataib Hezbollah militia, which falls the PMF's umbrella, killed or wounded scores.

However, Kataib Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by Washington, even though it is technically a unit within the Iraqi government's own armed forces.

The prime minister is furious over the air strikes but has pleaded for calm.

The PMF says its call to withdraw is in deference to him.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING.

"No.

I want to have peace.

I like peace.

And Iran should want peace more than anybody." Back in the United States, the New Year's Day political fallout has been swift.

The president has threatened to retaliate against Iran but also says he doesn't see war happening.

He claims that Iran -- through the militia -- orchestrated both the protest and the recent killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack that prompted those U.S. air strikes.

Both claims Iran denies.

Trump opponents, including Democratic presidential candidates, have seized on the incident to underline the rapid escalation of proxy wars with Tehran under his watch.

The air strikes have galvanized calls in Iraq to expel U.S. forces, not just from allies of Iran but their political rivals as well.

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