State Department orders evacuation of non-emergency US government employees from Iraq
Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.Government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Irbil began leaving Iraq following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “ordered departure” of nonemergency personnel Wednesday.
Employees were told to “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible” and avoid U.S. facilities in the country, a security message posted on the embassy website and distributed via email said.
The departure order was prompted by what U.S. officials have described in recent days as intelligence indicating Iran or its proxy forces were planning attacks on U.S. forces or interests in the region, State Department officials said.
“Given the increased threat stream we are seeing in Iraq, which we shared with the Iraqi government during [Pompeo’s] visit on May 7 and in subsequent engagements, the secretary has decided to place Mission Iraq on ordered departure,” an embassy spokesperson in Baghdad said by phone, reading prepared language about the matter.
The official declined to discuss the number of employees affected by the order but said they had already begun to depart. The State Department mission in Iraq will have limited ability to provide routine and emergency services for Americans, officials have said, and normal visa services were temporarily halted at both the Baghdad and Irbil posts.
The U.S. Consulate in Basra was evacuated last fall, following what Pompeo described in September as “repeated incidents of indirect fire” from Shiite militias with ties to Iran. Operations there remain suspended, the embassy spokesperson said. Earlier this week, the embassy had warned U.S. citizens in the country to “remain vigilant” and avoid places where Americans were known to gather.
The State Department’s ordinary process following an ordered departure calls for a review of the situation every 30 days and a final determination after six months, the embassy spokesperson said.
For more than a week, U.S. officials have said that there is an elevated threat level facing U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Syria, primarily emanating from Iranian-controlled Shiite militias. U.S. officials have also reportedly observed Iranian-controlled vessels in the Persian Gulf transporting military hardware including missiles.