Washington: US President Donald Trump has said that war with Iran is not a good idea even as he threatened Tehran after Iraqi supporters of pro-Iranian regime factions attacked the American embassy in Baghdad, forcing its diplomats to stay inside for safety.
His statement came hours after hundreds of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters, including women, broke into the US embassy compound in high-security zone on Tuesday after smashing a main door near parking and setting fire to a reception area chanting "death to America" in anger over air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah.
President Trump, in his brief interaction with reporters, said that the situation in Iran has been handled very well.
"We had some great warriors come in... this will not be a Benghazi... they got in there very quickly," he said in response to a question as he walked up to the grand ballroom at Mar-a-Lago for the New Year's eve party.
Asked about the possibility of a war with Iran, the US President said: "I don't think that would be a good idea for Iran... I like peace... I don't see that happening".
Earlier, Trump threatened Iran after the attack on the American embassy which was one of the worst in recent years.
"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!" he warned in a tweet.
"The US 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...," trump said in another tweet.
Soon thereafter, the Pentagon announced deployment of additional troops in Iraq as part of its effort to secure its personnel in Baghdad.
"At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorised the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the US Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq," US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper said.
Approximately 750 soldiers will be deployed to the region immediately and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days, he said.
"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. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world," Esper said.
On Tuesday, Trump spoke to Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi of Iraq.
"The two leaders discussed regional security issues and President Trump emphasized the need to protect United States personnel and facilities in Iraq," the White House said in a statement.
According to State Department spokesperson, their first priority is the safety and security of US personnel.
"US personnel are secure and there has been no breach. There are no plans to evacuate Embassy Baghdad," said the official.
US Ambassador to Iraq Matt Tueller has been on previously scheduled personal travel for over a week and reports that he has been evacuated are false.
"He is returning to the Embassy," the State Department spokesperson said.
The Iranian-backed demonstrations in front of the US embassy should not be confused with the Iraqi protestors who have been in the streets since October to decry the corruption exported to Iraq by the Iranian regime, the official said.
"We have made clear the United States will protect and defend its people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq. We are closely monitoring the situation in Iraq and call on the Government of Iraq to protect our diplomatic facilities as per their obligations," said the spokesperson.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is continuously monitoring the situation.
"The embassy is being monitored. It's safe. The actions that we took today were prudent. Under President Trump's direction, our team worked together today to quickly, decisively, prudently take the appropriate responses to keep our American people safe," he told CBS.
Responding to questions, Pompeo said that the US never contemplated evacuating the facility.
"But the American people should know that President Trump and our team are working diligently to make sure that we keep this facility secure.
"We've known for a long time that there was this risk. It's been 40 years that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been at this, and we've watched them continue to take actions. We saw them take actions that killed an American in Iraq just this past week. We saw the United States act decisively to respond to that in a way to signal to them that we would do precisely what I've said, precisely what President Trump said we would do, when American interests and American lives were at stake," Pompeo said.
The Secretary of State described this as a serious situation.
"It's a serious situation. We're watching. We'll make sure that we're doing all the things that we need to do, and we'll continue to ask the Iraqi government to do the things that they have a responsibility to do," he added.