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Supporters of the Iranian-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. Photo: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Protestors withdrew from the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, on Wednesday following orders from the Iranian-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The militia leaders said they had won a victory that allowed their message to be heard, signaling they would now try to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by taking action in the country’s parliament.

All protesters withdrew from the area in front of the U.S. embassy and left the Green Zone. The embassy is now completely surrounded and secured by security forces."
— Joint Operation Command statement, per NBC News

Details: The militia group's political spokesman of Kataib Hezbollah was seen addressing protestors at the embassy compound, saying, "We will take our fight to expel U.S. troops from our land to parliament and if we don’t succeed, we will return."

  • The protestors signaled that they would move to an encampment on the other side of the Tigris River, outside of the fortified Green Zone where the embassy compound is located.

Context: The attempt to storm the embassy was prompted by U.S. airstrikes on five facilities in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah over the weekend.

Worth noting, via Axios' Jonathan Swan: Unlike most of his national security team, President Trump sees very little value in an American presence in Iraq — full stop.

  • Trump has long wanted out of Iraq and believes the American presence in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster that was the worst mistake in U.S. history.

Go deeper: Where U.S. troops and military assets are deployed in the Middle East

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the Joint Operation Command and news that the protesters have left the area.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
38 mins ago - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
2 hours ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

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