National Security

U.S. Threatens To Close Iraq Embassy

Pompeo warns Iraqi leaders that continued violence against U.S. troops will not be tolerated

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Iraqi government that the United States will close its Baghdad embassy if attacks within the country continue to target Americans, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

An official familiar with the matter told reporters that Pompeo made the warning during a Saturday night phone call. 

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the conversation's specifics, though she emphasized America’s growing frustration with "Iran-backed groups launching rockets at our Embassy."

Repeated attacks are "a danger not only to us but to the Government of Iraq, neighboring diplomatic missions, and residents of the former International Zone and surrounding areas," the spokeswoman added.

Those attacks include one in March 2020, which killed two American servicemen, and one in December 2019, which killed an American civilian contractor and wounded four American servicemen. Since last year, attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq have markedly increased.

The United States' killing of high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by drone strike likely caused that uptick. Following the strike, Iraqi lawmakers called for the expulsion of U.S. troops, and Iran-backed terror groups ramped up operations near or on American installations in Iraq.

"The presence of lawless, Iran-backed militias remains the single biggest deterrent to additional investment in Iraq," the State Department spokeswoman noted.

The announcement comes as the Trump administration is changing American involvement in the Middle East conflict. This month, the Pentagon announced a modest troop increase in Syria to combat a resurging ISIS threat and Russian activity in the region. 

At the same time, the administration's tightened Iran sanctions and pro-Israel peace deals will also likely lead to troop reductions in Afghanistan in November 2020, according to a Pentagon press release.

"We've long maintained that our force presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based," David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told Congress. "The president [decided] that the conditions of Afghanistan were sufficient to reduce our force presence."