US closing consulate in Iraq, citing security risks from Iran

US closing consulate in Iraq, citing security risks from Iran
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The State Department said Friday that it will close a U.S. consulate in Basrah, Iraq, citing increased security threats from Iran and Iranian-backed militant groups in the region.

In a statement Friday, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Cheney calls for Turkish leader's bodyguards to be banned from re-entering US Pompeo: Trump to discuss political solution for Syria in meeting with Erdoğan MORE had ordered the consulate temporarily shuttered, providing little other details.

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"U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide full consular services to for those in and around Basrah," Nauert said in the statement. "We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country."

A travel advisory on the State Department's website dated Friday lists the country at a Level 4, advising against travel to the country. "Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism and armed conflict," the advisory read.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that administration officials said the threat stems from Iranian-supported forces in the region following last week's deadly terrorist attack during an Iranian military parade.

In a message to Iranian officials Friday, Pompeo warned Iran against future threats and asserted that the U.S. was not involved in the attack in Tehran.

"I have advised the Government of Iran that the United States will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm to Americans or to our diplomatic facilities in Iraq or elsewhere and whether perpetrated by Iranian forces directly or by associated proxy militias," Pompeo said in a statement Friday afternoon. 

"I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks," he added.

“Bottom line, if we are attacked we’ll respond,” a U.S. official told the Journal. "We’ll respond swiftly and effectively, and it will not be at proxies," the official added.

A senior Islamic cleric in Iran issued a veiled threat at the U.S. earlier Friday, warning that U.S. military bases would not be "safe" if the Trump administration pursues conflict with Iran.

“If America does anything wrong, their bases around Iran would not remain secure,” Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammadali Movahedi Kermani said, according to state media.