US to temporarily withdraw some embassy personnel in Baghdad: report
The U.S. plans to temporarily withdraw some personnel from its embassy in Baghdad out of concern about retaliation around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, CNN reported Wednesday.
Two sources familiar with the decision, including one U.S. official, said the partial withdrawal was scheduled to last until mid-January after the anniversary of Soleimani’s death on Jan. 3 passes. One of the sources said the decision was made at a Tuesday meeting of the National Security Council’s (NSC) Policy Coordination Committee.
A third diplomatic source said the withdrawal will be “slight” and come at a time when State Department employees usually take leave. CNN noted that it’s unclear how many employees were temporarily leaving the embassy.
A defense official told the network that Iranian officials are seeking retribution for Soleimani’s death and “aren’t going to give up” but could plan for more months.
The NSC did not immediately return a request for comment.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement, “We do not comment on the details of any adjustments but remained committed to a strong diplomatic partnership with Iraq.”
“Ambassador [Matthew] Tueller remains in Iraq and the Embassy in Baghdad continues to operate,” the spokesperson said. “The State Department continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays.”
“Ensuring the safety of U.S. government personnel, U.S. citizens, and the security of our facilities, remains our highest priority,” the spokesperson added.
The report comes a few months after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the U.S. would leave the embassy in Baghdad if Iraq did not reduce the attacks on U.S. personnel by Iranian-backed militia. The Washington Post first reported Pompeo’s plans.
But the source familiar with the Tuesday meeting told CNN that the officials did not decide to remove the entire staff from the embassy.
In the days after Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched missile attacks at Iraqi bases holding U.S. troops in a retaliation move.