By Shane Croucher On 1/1/20 at 6:19 AM EST
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei taunted President Donald Trump after the U.S. leader’s warning that Tehran will be held “fully responsible for lives lost” after the storming of the American embassy in Iraq.
Washington has accused Iran of orchestrating the attack on its embassy compound in Baghdad. The attackers were demonstrating against unilateral U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that killed more than two dozen fighters belonging to the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah.
The Americans blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a rocket attack that killed a Pentagon contractor and injured several U.S. service members and Iraqi personnel at an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk. On Tuesday, violent protests rocked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq over the airstrikes.
On New Year’s Eve, Trump tweeted: “The U.S. Embassy in Iraq 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. 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!”
In a statement reported by Iranian state media, Khamenei accused the Trump administration of “taking revenge” on Kataib Hezbollah “for defeating ISIS,” an extremist militant group he falsely accused the U.S. of creating.
“The Iranian government, the Iranian nation, and I strongly condemn the US’s malice,” Khamenei said. “That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad and we will respond to Iran.
“If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity and glory. If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront and strike them.”
Newsweek asked the State Department for comment by email and will update this story if one is provided.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a statement: “Our first priority is the safety and security of U.S. personnel. The United States has acted quickly, prudently, and decisively, taking additional security measures to address threats to American diplomats and facilities in Baghdad.
“The attack today was orchestrated by terrorists – Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Qays al-Khazali – and abetted by Iranian proxies – Hadi al Amari and Faleh al-Fayyad. All are pictured below outside our embassy.
“Today’s attack against the U.S. Embassy should not be confused with the legitimate efforts of the Iraqi protestors who have been in the streets since October working for the people of Iraq to end the corruption exported there by the Iranian regime.”
Protesters set ablaze a sentry box in front of the US embassy building in the capital Baghdad to protest against the weekend’s air strikes by US planes on several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades near Al-Qaim, an Iraqi district bordering Syria, on December 31, 2019. Several thousand protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, breaching its outer wall and chanting “Death to America!” in anger over weekend airstrikes that killed pro-Iran fighters. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images