U.S. bolstering Mideast military presence after protests at embassy in Baghdad

U.S. bolstering security in Middle East
U.S. bolstering security in Middle East 02:52

Last Updated Jan 2, 2020 7:31 AM EST

Baghdad — The United States is stepping up its military presence in the Middle East after two days of violent protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The Iranian-backed protesters have moved their camp across the Tigris river after the attacks that left parts of the heavily-fortified embassy compound scorched and in ruins. 

But as CBS News correspondent Ian Lee reports, even with the violence over many have been left wondering what it means for U.S.-Iraqi relations.

The crisis saw Iran flex its muscles, revealing the extent of Tehran's influence in neighboring Iraq. It began when the U.S. blamed Iranian-backed Shiite militias for killing an American contractor in a missile attack on an Iraqi base last month. The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes on those militias' bases in Iraq and Syria, killing more than two dozen fighters.

That sparked the 48 hours of intense protests. Iraqi security forces stood aside when supporters of those Iranian-backed militias marched to the U.S. Embassy compound.

President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran would be held responsible for the attack on the embassy, but Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei taunted him, telling Mr. Trump in his own tweet: "You can't do anything."

But the U.S. is bolstering its troop presence in the region. Hundreds of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne were on their way to neighboring Kuwait, joining U.S. Marines who have already boosted security at the embassy. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin learned that an additional 3,000 troops were preparing to deploy to Kuwait, but orders for that deployment had not been issued as of Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Iraqi politicians have been calling for American troops to be forced out of Iraq completely, in line with the demands of the Iranian-backed protesters now camped out just across the river from the U.S. Embassy.