The State Department has ordered “non-emergency U.S. government employees” in Iraq to leave its embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil amid tensions with neighboring Iran.
“The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited,” the department said in statement early Wednesday.
It has also advised Americans against traveling to Iraq.
“Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict,” the statement added.
A State Department spokesperson said Wednesday that “given the increased threat stream we are seeing … the Secretary has decided to place Mission Iraq on ordered departure.”
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Sunday tweeted that it was advising “all U.S. citizens of heightened tensions in Iraq and the requirement to remain vigilant.”
That statement also urged Americans to avoid places known as gathering places for U.S. citizens and to keep a low profile.
The moves come after national security adviser John Bolton announced earlier this month that the U.S. would be sending a carrier strike group to the Middle East to send a “clear and unmistakable message” to Iran.
Bolton said then that while U.S. wasn’t seeking to go to war with Iran, “we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
NBC News has reported that the decision to send forces to the Middle East was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces and surrogates that they can now go after American military personnel and assets in the region, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations last week denied that Tehran had given a green light to its proxies to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East, accusing American officials of employing “fake intelligence.”