Sun, 18 Aug 2019

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad says the State Department has ordered all 'nonemergency government employees' to leave Iraq amid growing tensions with neighboring Iran.

The embassy said in a May 15 statement that the order applied to employees both at the embassy and at the U.S. Consulate in the northern city of Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

'Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq,' the statement said.

It recommended those affected 'depart by commercial transportation as soon as possible.'

On May 12, the embassy in Baghdad advised U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, citing 'heightened tensions' in the country.

It did not give details about the nature of the threats.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unexpected visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss U.S. security concerns amid what he called 'escalating' Iranian activity.

His visit came after Washington announced the deployment of an aircraft-carrier battle group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, which U.S. official said was in response to threats from Iran to the interests of the United States or its allies in the region.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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