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US orders non-emergency embassy staff to leave Iraq

A handout picture released by the media office of the Iraqi Presidency on May 8, 2019 shows President Braham Saleh (R) during his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the capital Baghdad. Iraq has promised to guarantee the safety of US interests from Iran, Pompeo said upon his arrival in Iraq on a surprise visit on May 7, accusing Tehran of planning

A handout picture released by the media office of the Iraqi Presidency on May 8, 2019 shows President Braham Saleh (R) during his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the capital Baghdad. Iraq has promised to guarantee the safety of US interests from Iran, Pompeo said upon his arrival in Iraq on a surprise visit on May 7, accusing Tehran of planning "imminent" attacks.   | Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / IRAQI PRESIDENCY MEDIA OFFICE

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The United States on Wednesday ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Arbil, as tensions mount between the United States and Iraq’s neighbour Iran.

Washington has ramped up pressure on Tehran in recent days, accusing Iran of planning “imminent” attacks in the region, and bolstering the American military presence in the Gulf.

A State Department advisory announcing the partial embassy closures warned of numerous terrorist and insurgent groups active in Iraq, including “anti-US sectarian militias” who could “threaten US citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq.”

The US last year shut its consulate in the protest-hit southern Iraqi city of Basra, blaming “indirect fire” by Iran-backed forces.

Tensions have sharply escalated between Washington and Tehran since US President Donald Trump withdrew last May from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who has made rolling back Iranian influence in the region a top priority — last week paid a surprise trip to Baghdad in a move to bolster ties with Iraq.

Mr. Pompeo told reporters he had made the trip because Iranian forces are “escalating their activity” and said the threat of attacks were “very specific.”

The top US envoy met with Iraq President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, and spoke to them “about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”

‘Unrelenting force’

Since pulling out of the Iran deal, the Trump administration has ramped up menacing rhetoric against Iran while tightening economic sanctions on the country.

National Security Advisor John Bolton warned Iran that Washington would respond with “unrelenting force” to any attack by Tehran, including by its regional allies.

The Pentagon said last week it was sending several massive, nuclear-capable B-52s to the region in response to indications of an alleged plan by “Iranian and Iranian proxy forces” to attack US forces.

The US move comes in response to intelligence about a threat orchestrated by Iran, officials said, but details of the threat have not been disclosed.

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    Printable version | May 23, 2019 9:44:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-orders-non-emergency-embassy-staff-to-leave-iraq/article27137530.ece

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