Before Baghdad: 13 times US diplomats were violently attacked

Each time, US institutions came under attack and have become symbolic of larger segments of American history.

Protesters and militia fighters set fire to a reception room of the US Embassy in Baghdad, Dec. 31, 2019 (photo credit: WISSM AL-OKILI/REUTERS)
Protesters and militia fighters set fire to a reception room of the US Embassy in Baghdad, Dec. 31, 2019
(photo credit: WISSM AL-OKILI/REUTERS)
The attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad conjured up bad memories of other attacks on US embassies and diplomatic posts.
It has been compared to the Iranian hostage crises, the attack in Benghazi in 2012, and even the scenes at the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975. In each of these cases, US institutions came under attack and have become symbolic of larger segments of American history.
It remains to be seen how history will treat the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad. Will it be a turning point for the US in Iraq, or will the damage be quickly repaired and the protest forgotten?
Here, in chronological order, is a list of major attacks on US embassies, consulates and diplomatic personnel:
1. 1958 Nixon’s trip to Venezuela attacked by mobs
Mobs allegedly connected to the Communist Party in Venezuela attacked US vice president Richard Nixon’s motorcade in Caracas, Venezuela. It was, at the time, considered one of the highest-profile attacks on a senior US official abroad. It came in response to the overthrow of Venezuelan dictator Marco Jimenez. The US Navy mobilized ships and US Marines, in case they needed to protect Nixon after the motorcade attack. Instead, Nixon made it to the US Embassy. The attack was seen as a part of a growing anger at US foreign policy, mostly pushed by communists throughout the world as part of the Cold War.
2. 1968 US Embassy in Vietnam stormed
Viet Cong guerrillas attacked the US Embassy in Saigon during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The attack began in the early hours of January 31, 1968. More than a dozen Vietnamese assaulted the embassy and killed five Americans in a battle that lasted until almost 9 a.m. One Viet Cong surrendered. The attack on the embassy was seen as symbolic of US failure to secure a victory in Vietnam, leaving the US to eventually seek peace and withdraw.
3. 1974 attack on US Embassy, Cyprus
Days after the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus, anti-American rioters attacked the US Embassy in Nicosia. A sniper affiliated with Greek extremists killed the US ambassador, Rodger Davies. Some Greek protesters had blamed the US for not stopping the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and siding with Turkey, similar to the move the US would make in Syria in October 2019, enabling a Turkish invasion.
4. 1975 evacuation of US Embassy, Saigon
On April 30 US ambassador to South Vietnam Graham Martin was charged with evacuating the last Americans from the US Embassy in Vietnam, ending decades of US involvement. Martin refused to leave until he could get out around 978 Americans and 1,000 Vietnamese sheltering in the compound. He eventually left, and North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon. Images of people fleeing to US ships and fighting to get on helicopters have cast a long shadow over US policy since.
5. 1979 Iran hostage crises
Iranians storm the US embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostages. They are held for 44 days from November 1979 to January 1981 when Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President. Several Americans are able to flee the embassy and escape as documented in the film 'Argo'. The embassy crises is a  formative moment for the Iran Revolution and the subsequent regime that still chants 'death to America' to this day.  It begins a trend of attacks on US diplomatic posts in the Middle East.
6. 1979 riot and attack on US Embassy in Pakistan
Pakistan Islamic extremists, linked to a Saudi Arabian-supported group and angered by false reports that the US had harmed Islamic sites in Mecca, protested and then stormed the US Embassy in Islamabad in November 1979. The embassy was burned, and US diplomats had to hide in a secure room. US Marines were sent to bring the diplomats out, but two US Marines were killed. Iran played a role in spreading propaganda that the US was responsible for an attack in Mecca, motivating the rioters.
7. 1979 attack on US Embassy in Libya
Islamic rioters, angered by a false report that the US had harmed the Grand Mosque in Mecca, attacked and burned the US Embassy on December 2, 1979.
8. 1983 attack on US Embassy in Kuwait
Dawa Party member Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, helped plan attacks that detonated a truck with gas cylinders and explosives near the US Embassy in Kuwait City. Five people were killed, including two Palestinians and two Kuwaitis.
9. 1984 bombing of US Embassy annex, Lebanon
A bombing by Hezbollah struck the US Embassy annex in Lebanon. Twenty-four people were murdered, including two Americans.
10. 1984 kidnapping of CIA station chief William Francis Buckley
William Francis Buckley was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1984 in Beirut. He was on his way to work when he was taken.
He was kidnapped allegedly because of a trial in Kuwait in which 17 Iranian-backed terrorists were on trial. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kataib Hezbollah today, which was targeted by US airstrikes on December 29, was also involved in the attacks in Kuwait, but was sentenced in absentia. Buckley was tortured for months by Hezbollah and declared dead in 1985. His remains were returned in 1991.
11. 1985 bombing US Embassy, Beirut
On April 18, 1983 a suicide bomber killed 17 Americans and more than 30 Lebanese at the US Embassy in Beirut. The attack was partly related to the US involvement in the Lebanese Civil War. A pro-Iranian group took responsibility for the bombing. Imad Mughniyeh of Hezbollah was allegedly involved in the attack against the US in Lebanon at the time.
12. 1999 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
Al-Qaeda planned and carried out the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 213 people, including 12 Americans. This was later seen as a prelude to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
13. 2012 Benghazi consulate attack
US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in a coordinated attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and a CIA annex. The attack was seen as a failure of the US State Department and Obama administration to adequately protect the ambassador, and led to a scandal.