Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the closure of a diplomatic mission in Iraq, following rocket launches that he blamed on Iran.
“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 Friday afternoon.
That statement came on the heels of an announcement that he had ordered the closure of the U.S. Consulate in Basra, a city in southern Iraq. The “temporary relocation” is taking place just weeks after after an Iranian facility in the same city was set ablaze by protesters angry about Iranian influence in the country. Iran-backed forces alleged that the U.S. had orchestrated the incident, raising concerns of an analogous assault on American diplomats.
“Threats to our personnel and facilities in Iraq from the Government of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, and from militias facilitated by and under the control and direction of the Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani have increased over the past several weeks,” said Pompeo. “There have been repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias directed at our Consulate General in Basrah and our Embassy in Baghdad, including within the past twenty-four hours.”
The U.S. Consulate in Basra was the apparent target of rocket fire three weeks ago, though no facilities were damaged. The barrage came shortly after protesters set fire to Iranian offices in the city, an attack that drew a condemnation from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“Under the Iraqi constitution, the right to peaceful protest and the duty to protect public and private property go hand in hand,” she said on Sept. 7. “The United States condemns violence against diplomats, including that which occurred today in Basra. We call on all parties, including security forces and protesters, to uphold the right of peaceful protest and to protect diplomats and their facilities.”
But Iranian-backed forces accused the United States of orchestrating the clash. “The American Embassy is directing the situation in Basra,” said Abu Mehdi al-Mohandis, a U.S.-designated terrorist who leads a Shiite militia, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported Pompeo’s decision.
U.S. officials have emphasized that President Trump wouldn’t make a distinction between Iran and Iranian poxy militias in Iraq, if a direct attack on American diplomats takes place. “The President and I have no more important priority than the safety and security of American citizens, including our diplomatic, military and other officials serving abroad,” Pompeo said. “We look to all international parties interested in peace and stability in Iraq and the region to reinforce our message to Iran regarding the unacceptability of their behavior.”
Source: Washington Examiner