Trump urges Iraqi PM to protect US personnel after protesters storm embassy

Trump urges Iraqi PM to protect US personnel after protesters storm embassy
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE on Tuesday spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi about the safety of American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The White House said Trump and al-Mahdi discussed "regional security issues" and that the president "emphasized the need to protect United States personnel and facilities in Iraq."

Trump is in Florida spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He spent just under an hour Tuesday at his golf club in West Palm Beach, where he said he had a meeting on the Middle East and the military.

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The call came hours after thousands of demonstrators and supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Some chanted "Death to America" and set small fires inside the walls of the compound.

Iraqi security forces reportedly did not intervene to stop the demonstrators from advancing until a commander arrived and gave them orders. 

The protests were triggered by U.S. airstrikes on Sunday against five Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria that killed at least 25 militia fighters. The airstrikes came in response to an attack that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.

The Trump administration blamed the Kataib Hezbollah militia, which is backed by Iran, for the attack.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Overnight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military MORE said additional U.S. forces would be deployed to the facility in Baghdad to bolster security, and he called on Iraq to assist in the protection of embassy personnel.

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The chaos at the embassy has renewed concerns among some U.S. lawmakers about the potential for conflict with Iran.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAirline industry applauds Democrats for including aid in coronavirus relief package Democrats unveil scaled-down .2T coronavirus relief package Trump tax reveal roils presidential race MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted that embassy personnel "deserve protection from the Iraqi host government and smart, strong national security strategy from U.S. leaders. Escalation and violence must end."

The Trump administration has made confronting Tehran a cornerstone of its foreign policy and has hammered its leaders with sanctions over the past year.

The two countries have also been on the brink of conflict at times, including after Trump said in June that he called off a military strike at the last moment after the U.S. accused Iran of shooting down an American drone.