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US pulls diplomats from Iraqi city, citing threats from Iran

September 30, 2018 at 11:29 am

The United States announced on Friday it will effectively close its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra and relocate diplomatic personnel assigned there following increasing threats from Iran and Iran-backed militia, including rocket fire, reported on Reuters.

The decision adds to mounting tension between the United States and Iran, which is the target of increasing US economic sanctions.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said the consulate closure was “unjustified and unnecessary”, and said Iran condemned any attack on diplomats or diplomatic locations, according to the ministry’s website.

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Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it regretted the decision and urged foreign diplomats not to pay attention to “what is being circulated to undermine the climate of security and stability accompanying Iraq’s relations with the countries of the world.”

Iraq is committed to protecting diplomatic missions, spokesman Ahmed Mahgoub said in a statement on Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as he explained the move, renewed a warning that the United States would hold Iran directly responsible for any attacks on Americans and US diplomatic facilities.

It followed recent rocket attacks that Pompeo said were directed at the consulate in Basra. US officials said the rockets, however, had not impacted the consulate, which is located on the Basra airport compound.

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“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo did not explicitly say whether a US response was imminent, however, and other US officials did not disclose potential response options.

Still, Pompeo said the threats against US personnel and facilities in Iraq were “increasing and specific” and added that Washington was working with Iraqi forces and US allies to address them.

“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 behaviour,” he said.