SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney called for tighter sanctions and worldwide condemnation of Iran after demonstrators attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to protest American airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq.
The Utah Republican said in a tweet that the attack is further evidence that Iran is increasing its provocation and destabilizing actions in the Middle East.
“Iraq must take responsibility to help defend our embassy. Iran must feel the condemnation of every civilized nation & our sanctions on Iran must tighten further,” Romney tweeted.
Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area in one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory, according to The Associated Press.
American guards fired tear gas, and a pall of smoke rose over the embassy grounds.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main embassy building. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”
There were no reports of casualties. The State Department said all American personnel were safe, and there were no plans to evacuate the embassy.
The State Department also said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matther Tueller, a Brigham Young University graduate, was returning to the embassy after “previously scheduled personal travel.”
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. 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!” President Donald Trump said in a tweet.
Trump later tweeted, “To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!”
The U.S. is sending additional forces to support personnel at the embassy, according Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Romney and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., met with Iraqi government leaders and American diplomats in Baghdad during a trip to the Middle East in April. Romney is the chairman and Murphy the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism.
“Last spring, I was humbled to meet some of our dedicated diplomatic and military personnel working at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They work tirelessly to protect our interests and support a peaceful, independent, prosperous future for the Iraqi people. We stand with them,” Romney tweeted Tuesday.
There is a question in some parts of the world as to whether U.S. and coalition troops are needed in Iraq, Romney said after the April trip. But he said he heard from Iraqi leaders that American coalition presence is essential to the perception in the country of stability.
Murphy blames Trump’s Middle East policy for Tuesday’s violence.
“The attack on our embassy in Baghdad is horrifying but predictable. Trump has rendered America impotent in the Middle East. No one fears us, no one listens to us. America has been reduced to huddling in safe rooms, hoping the bad guys will go away. What a disgrace,” he tweeted.