Trump deploys more US troops to Middle East following embassy compound attack

By Robert Burns and Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump has ordered some 750 American soldiers be deployed to the Middle East, with about 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days following an attack on the US embassy compound in Iraq.

Mr Trump said that Iran was “fully responsible” for the attack in which no US casualties or evacuations were reported.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday night that “in response to recent events” in Iraq, and at Mr Trump’s direction, he had authorised the immediate deployment of the infantry battalion from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Mr Esper did not specify the soldiers’ destination, but a US official familiar with the decision said they will go to Kuwait.

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Mr Esper said in a written statement.

Additional soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, were prepared to deploy, Mr Esper said.

The US official, who provided unreleased details on condition of anonymity, said the full brigade of some 4,000 soldiers may deploy.

The breach of the embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday revealed growing strains between the US and Iraq, raising questions about the future of Washington’s military mission there.

Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday afternoon: “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

American airstrikes on Sunday killed 25 fighters of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah.

The US said those strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor and the wounding of American and Iraqi troops in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the US blamed on the militia.

The American strikes angered the Iraqi government, which called them an unjustified violation of its sovereignty.

“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Mr Trump tweeted from his estate in Florida.

“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!”

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