Several Iraqis were killed on Monday after powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would quit politics, prompting followers to storm the presidential compound in Baghdad.
A video uploaded on Monday appeared to show U.S. Embassy staff in Baghdad being evacuated via military helicopter. However, the White House denied those reports during a news briefing on Monday.
Sadr, who has drawn broad support by opposing both U.S. and Iranian influence on Iraqi politics, was the biggest winner from an October election but withdrew all his lawmakers from parliament in June after he failed to form a government that excluded his rivals, mostly Tehran-backed Shi'ite parties.
Sadr has insisted on early elections and the dissolution of parliament. He says no politician who has been in power since the U.S. invasion in 2003 can hold office.
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq urged calm among all parties amid concerns of an escalating conflict.
“We are closely monitoring reports of unrest in Baghdad today at the Supreme Judicial Council,” the embassy said in a statement.
“We urge all parties to remain calm, abstain from violence, and resolve any political differences through a peaceful process guided by the Iraqi constitution. We also call for those demonstrating to respect the proceedings and property of Iraq’s governmental institutions which belong to and serve the Iraqi people,” it added.
The Iraqi unrest comes one year after the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan after 20 years, leading to the Taliban's swift takeover of the country.