Satellite Spots Iraqi Protests at US Embassy from Space (Photos)

The WorldView-3 Earth observation satellite operated by Maxar Technologies captured this view of pro-Iranian protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2020. This annotated view labels major points of interest in the image. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies)

A Maxar Technologies satellite in orbit has spotted the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, showing views of the New Year's Day demonstration from above. 

Maxar's WorldView-3 Earth-observation satellite captured images of crowds of demonstrators at the U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad on Jan. 1. The photos show protesters at the entrance of the compound, with the black plume from a small fire visible in one image. 

"The imagery, collected at 11:21 a.m. local time, reveals crowds of people gathered along the street adjacent to the compound and small fires burning on a building and sentry box near the compound," Maxar representatives said in an image description.

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A wider view from WorldView-3 of pro-Iranian protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 1, 2020. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies)

Thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators swarmed the American Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday (Dec. 31), forcing their way into the U.S. compound and set fires on some outbuildings, according to the New York Times. Embassy personnel were trapped inside the compound during the protest. By Wednesday, the Times reported, those crowds were smaller and remained outside the compound. 

The demonstrators were protesting American airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. The airstrikes were in response to a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded several Iraqi and U.S. military service members.

The U.S. airstrikes hit five targets in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 24 people and wounding 48 others, according to the New York Times. Iranian officials have said the airstrikes killed 31 people, the Times added. By Thursday (Jan. 2), the crowds of demonstrators had dispersed in a full withdrawal pushed by Iranian-backed militias, according to the Times. 

Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite that captured the new photos has been snapping Earth imagery from orbit for just over five years. 

The satellite launched in 2014 (then owned by DigitalGlobe, which was acquired by Maxar) and can resolve features as small as 1 foot (31 centimeters) across.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.

  • Truthseeker007
    I am glad I got out of Iraq last December after 16 months and missed all that. :D

    Without getting political but still haven't found the weapons of mass!
  • galynwae
    The more accurate headline would be "Satellite Spots Iranian Militias Attacking US Embassy in Baghdad"
  • Truthseeker007
    galynwae said:
    The more accurate headline would be "Satellite Spots Iranian Militias Attacking US Embassy in Baghdad"

    I guess the US pissed the Iranians off. If I recall correctly didn't we sink an Iranian ship not to long ago? This really isn't good at all. I don't think an Iran,US war would end well for both. But I am not sure how connected the Iranian militias are connected to the Iranian government. All I know is both sides have nuclear weapons. Iran would easily send some missiles to Israel.