State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus insisted Wednesday that the Trump administration's policy toward Iran is working, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iran militia members.
Ortagus said those who attacked the embassy were "terrorists that are organized, trained and equipped by the Iranian regime," not legitimate protesters.
Dozens of pro-Iran militiamen and protesters remain camped outside the compound on Wednesday, one day after militiamen stormed into the compound and smashed windows before pulling back. It was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in years.
The demonstrators said to be protesting U.S. airstrikes over the weekend that killed 25 fighters. Those strikes were in response to a rocket attack on an Iraqi Army base that killed a U.S. contractor and injured several American troops.
"We have told the Iranian regime countless times, do not confuse President Trump's strategic patience with weakness," said Ortagus, prompting "America's Newsroom" anchor Leland Vittert to ask when Iran's provocations in the region will be met with a stronger response from the United States, such as targeted airstrikes.
"We think our policy is working stronger than ever. The Iranian economy is out of money," said Ortagus, formerly a Fox News contributor.
"We're not seeking another war in the Middle East. That's not what we're doing here. But we are holding the Iranian regime accountable and we are protecting and defending ourselves," she added, saying the administration is "completely confident" that the embassy is secure.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday night, just hours after dozens of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the embassy attack in Baghdad, President Trump vowed that the situation "will not be a Benghazi" — a pointed reference to the deadly 2012 embassy attack in Libya on the Obama administration's watch, after officials at the embassy had requested enhanced security for weeks.
"It's been handled very well," Trump said as he walked into New Year's Eve celebrations at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "The Marines came in. We had some great warriors come in; they did a fantastic job. They were there instantaneously, as soon as we heard. They came immediately. It's in great shape. This will not be a Benghazi. Benghazi never should have happened. This will never, ever be a Benghazi. ... As soon as we saw there was a potential for a problem, they got in."
Trump added: "Things are in great shape. ... I want to thank the Iraqi government. They really stepped up."'
Ortagus maintained that the president's strategy with Iran has been effective.
"We can pursue peaceful diplomacy with the Iranian regime while also continuing our maximum economic pressure campaign, while also defending ourselves. ... To say that it's a war with Iran or nothing is just a fundamental misunderstanding of how foreign policy actually works," she said.
Fox News' Lucia I. Suarez Sang contributed to this report.