US says it will leave Baghdad embassy if Iraq doesn’t rein in attacks: report
The U.S. told Iraq that it will leave its embassy in Baghdad if Iraq doesn’t rein in the attacks on personnel connected to American troops, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi about the plan for a U.S. departure from the embassy, an official familiar with the matter told the Post. Two Western officials in the city told the newspaper their country’s diplomatic missions were told about the plan.
An Iraqi official told the Post that the U.S. had requested its government be forceful against militias, indicating if the Iraqi government took appropriate steps, it’s possible the embassy may not be shut down.
The departure from Baghdad is expected to take 90 days, which a diplomat familiar with the situation told the newspaper would give President Trump’s administration time to reevaluate.
Ahmed Mulla Talal, a spokesperson for Kadhimi, said Sunday that the country hopes the U.S. “will reconsider” its decision.
“There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them,” he said.
The Post reported that it was unclear whether the White House approved of the deal. But two U.S. officials said Pompeo cautioned about the possible closure of the embassy without necessary action against the militias.
A spokesperson from the State Department told The Hill in a statement the department does not comment on Pompeo’s “private diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders” but added the U.S. has expressed concerns about Iran-backed militias attacking the embassy.
The spokesperson continued by saying these militias are “the single biggest deterrent” to the U.S.’s moves to ensure financial support for the country.
A senior official in Kadhimi’s office said the Iraqi prime minister was working on getting support from European partners to persuade the U.S. to stay to prevent a risk to stability in Iraq, according to the Post.
President Trump directed the killing of senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani earlier this year, sparking Iran-backed militias to launch strikes on the embassy and Iraqi military bases that hosted U.S.-led coalition troops deployed to fight ISIS.
This year, two U.S., one British and several Iraqi military members have been killed in attacks that have been traced back to Iran-backed militias.
The Post noted that Kadhimi has attempted to target the militias through their funding and by restructuring Iraq’s security system, but the militias reacted by launching more strikes.
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