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US Secretary of State meets troops, Iraqi leaders in unannounced visit

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo conducts airborne questions and answers with the traveling press en route to Singapore August 3, 2018. (State Department/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Iraq in a previously unannounced visit, where he met with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders to reassure them about a planned U.S. military withdrawal from Syria.

Pompeo also warned during his visit that Iran remained a regional security threat in the Middle East.

The visit came on the second day of a tour of nine Arab countries that also includes Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.

Pompeo’s tour follows rising tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Donald Trump’s administration reimposed sanctions.

Pompeo is seeking to bring Arab allies together in response to Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East — particularly in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

In Baghdad, Pompeo met on January 9 with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Hakim, parliament speaker Muhammad al-Halbusi, and President Barham Salih.

Pompeo said during his meeting with the Iraqi prime minister that he was “very happy” to be in Baghdad.

The U.S. State Department said Pompeo “underlined the U.S. commitment to Iraq’s sovereignty…[and] discussed the recent territorial defeat” of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

It said Pompeo also welcomed the continuation of U.S. cooperation with Iraqi security forces.