The US Department of State ordered all non-emergency US Government employees to immediately leave Iraq, both from the US Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.
@StateDept has ordered the departure of non-emergency USG employees from Iraq, both at the Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil. Additional information on this alert can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at U.S. Citizen Services. https://t.co/iX96dAkyhT
— U.S. Embassy Baghdad (@USEmbBaghdad) May 15, 2019
The actions the departing employees should undertake are as follows:
- Depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible
- Avoid U.S. facilities within Iraq
- Monitor local media for updates
- Review personal security plans
- Remain aware of surroundings
CNN’s National Security Reporter Ryan Browne cited State Department as having said that the threat in Iraq has increased. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had reportedly said that during his visit to Baghdad on May 7th.
US Embassy Staff to leave Iraq amid tensions with Iran. @StateDept: “Given the increased threat stream we are seeing in Iraq, which we shared with the Iraqi government during the Secretary’s visit on May 7…the Secretary has decided to place Mission Iraq on ordered departure”
— Ryan Browne (@rabrowne75) May 15, 2019
There is no other reason provided, but it is likely related to the presumed possible attacks by Iran that the Trump administration continues maintaining will happen.
“These actions are not the prelude to a U.S. attack against Iran,” Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted. “There is clear & persistent evidence,supported by observable movements on the ground,that Iran’s proxy forces in Iraq and Yemen plan to attack Americans with the intent of inflicting mass casualties.”
He did also say that Iran is part of the reason for the decision:
“Iran’s IRGC has spent years building the capability to attack us using proxy forces. They believe they can inflict casualties on the U.S. without international condemnation because world will see it as the actions of independent Shia groups instead of Iran itself.
They also believe that our internal political divisions combined with the legacy of the Iraq War will lead a substantial % of Americans to doubt Iran’s role in such attacks or blame Trump. & they have built propaganda capability to spread narrative in social media.
The idea that the US President is creating a pretext to start war with #Iran makes no sense. While I may not agree with him on it, Donald Trump wants to wind down U.S. military presence in Middle East, not expand it.
We can debate whether the designation of IRGC provoked all this. But right now, Americans serving us in Iraq are facing a serious & imminent threat. Iran need to know that if they are attacked a UNITED States of America will respond decisively.”
Other senators said they had no knowledge of what was happening.
“The Trump administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do with Iraq and Iran,” Sen. Bob Menendez reportedly said.
Other US allies are also suspending their operations in Iraq.
On May 15th, the Dutch government has suspended a mission in Iraq that provides assistance to local authorities due to a security threat, Dutch news agency ANP reported. The Netherlands has about 170 military and civilian personnel in Iraq.
Germany, too, suspended its Iraq training mission due to “threats.” “The German army has suspended the training,” Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said. There was “generally heightened alert, awareness” for soldiers currently operating in the region, he added, but said training could be resumed within a few days as there was “no concrete threat” at the moment.
Germany was “orienting itself toward our partner countries, which have taken this step,” Flosdorff said.
Germany has some 60 soldiers stationed north of Baghdad to train Iraq security forces as well as 100 more troops in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said: “Obviously, we are watching the increasing tensions in the region with considerable concern and welcome any measure that is aimed at a peaceful solution.”
Angela Merkel herself, however, did say that the EU must unite and stand up against the US, China and Russia.
“There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world,” Merkel said. “The old certainties of the post-war order no longer apply.”
She added: “They [China, Russia and the US] are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions. That is often difficult given our different interests. But we do get this done – think, for example, of our policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine.
Our policies on Africa, too, now follow a common strategy, which a few years ago would have been unthinkable. So, we keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, our political power is not yet commensurate with our economic strength.”
The British deputy commander of the anti-ISIS coalition said on May 14th that Iran was not upping aggression through the militias it backs.
“There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Major General Christopher Ghika. “There are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria, and we don’t see any increased threat from many of them at this stage.”
US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, contradicted Maj Gen Ghika, saying in a statement that his comments “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence.”
To recall, Spain pulled out its frigate Méndez Núñez from USS Abraham Linclon’s carrier strike group. The move came due to concerns of Spain being dragged into a conflict involuntarily.
On Iran’s side, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said on May 14th that the country was not seeking a military confrontation. In comments quoted by state media, Mr Khamenei framed the conflict as a battle of wills, saying “our resoluteness is more unwavering than theirs”.
— IRNA News Agency (@IrnaEnglish) May 15, 2019
“Neither we are looking for a war, nor they are, as they know that it will not be in their interests,” said Mr Khamenei. He did say that negotiations wouldn’t be effective between Iran and the US.
“The definite option in front of the Iranian nation is resistance against the US,” Khamenei said, “which will [eventually] be forced to retreat.”
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- ‘Iranian Threat’: US Evacuates “Non-Emergency” Staff From Baghdad Embassy. Germany, Netherlands Suspend Training Missions