Evacuation order comes amid soaring tensions with Iran and concerns of attacks on US interests in the region
The US State Department on Wednesday ordered the departure of all “non-emergency government employees” from Iraq, including all non-essential personnel at both the US embassy in Baghdad and US consulate in Erbil.
An 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.”
Americans in Iraq were instructed to avoid US facilities and leave the country by commercial transport as soon as possible.
“The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq,” a security alert said.
The order comes with tensions flaring between the United States and Iran, and amid reports that the US was reviewing plans to respond in the event that Iran moves to boost its uranium enrichment or launches attacks on American targets.
Reports said Tuesday that of the most aggressive proposals presented to US defense chiefs during a Pentagon meeting last week was a plan to deploy as many as 120,000 soldiers to the Mideast — numbers approaching the level of troop buildup prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Trump denied that the plan was currently on the table, but said if deployment was necessary “we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Last week, Washington deployed new Patriot missiles to the Middle East and sent the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region in the Gulf after reportedly receiving intelligence from Israel of plans to launch attacks against American forces or interests in the Gulf.
Trump has cautioned that any attack would be “a very bad mistake”, warning that they would “suffer greatly” as a result of any aggression.
Iran, for its part, has dismissed the US buildup as “psychological warfare”, and says that the US wouldn’t dare attack it out of fear of Iranian retribution toward Israel.