- Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters
- The US Department of State has ordered all nonemergency US government employees out of Iraq, a security notice announced Wednesday.
- Evacuating personnel were told to “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible” and “avoid US facilities within Iraq.”
- US allies have also begun suspending certain government and military missions in Iraq.
- The decisions come amid rising tensions with Iran, which the US recently accused of plotting attacks on US interests in the region.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories
The US Department of State sent out a notice Wednesday ordering all nonemergency US government employees to leave Iraq immediately.
Without giving a reason for the partial evacuation, the notice said employees should “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible” and “avoid US facilities within Iraq.” US employees are being pulled out of both the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in the northern city of Erbil.
The State Department provided some additional clarity after the release of the notice, citing an “increased threat stream we are seeing in Iraq,” CNN reported.
“These actions are not the prelude to a U.S. attack against Iran,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, 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.”
“Right now Americans serving us in Iraq are facing a serious & imminent threat,” he added.
Other lawmakers suggested they were in the dark on this situation. “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, a New Jersey Democrat, reportedly said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday.
The Dutch government on Wednesday announced it was suspending a key mission in Iraq over an unspecified security threat. Germany has decided to suspend military training operations in Iraq in response to a marked increase in regional tensions.
In September, the Trump administration made the decision to pull US government employees out of the US Consulate in Basra, in southern Iraq, after a rocket attack by Shiite militias linked to Iran. The attack did not cause any injuries.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been on the rise since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.
Last week, the US accused Iran of plotting attacks on US interests in the region. Iran denies the allegations against it.
To respond to this threat – details of which have yet to be presented – the US military deployed an aircraft carrier and accompanying strike group, a bomber task force, and other assets to the US Central Command area of responsibility. Bombers have already begun flying deterrence patrols.
The US has said any attack on its forces or interests will be met with “unrelenting force.” Trump personally has said Iran will “suffer greatly” if it targets the US with any act of aggression.
While some observers have suggested the US is marching toward war with Iran, others have stressed that this is not the case. Michael Singh, a managing director at the Washington Institute who previously served on the National Security Council, has argued on Twitter that the “risk of inadvertent conflict and escalation is real.”
“This is esp the case given the likely poor understanding each side has of the other’s intent and red lines, and the poor communications not just between the US and Iran, but between the US and our allies,” he added.