The Trump administration ordered a drawdown of diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq until some time in January due to risks of a potential attack, according to a new report.
Anonymous officials told The Washington Post that some staff members were withdrawn from the embassy for a “de-risking” period that will extend until after the one-year anniversary of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 3, 2020.
The drawdown will include “dozens” of people — up to half the staff at the Baghdad embassy and other diplomatic facilities in Iraq, Politico also reported, citing a U.S. official and a State Department Official.
The State Department did not confirm the drawdown, but did tell The Post, “The State Department continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays.”
U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller will reportedly remain at the embassy, which will also remain open.
Tensions are high ahead of the Soleimani killing anniversary as Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated on Friday. Iran has blamed the U.S. and its close ally Israel for the attack, and has threatened to retaliate.
In late September, the Trump administration reportedly considered closing the embassy unless the Iraqi government could stop rocket attacks against U.S. forces and facilities. Preparations to withdraw staff from the embassy were reported to have taken place at that time.
“What we’re being told is that it is a gradual closure of the embassy over two to three months,” one Iraqi official told Wall Street Journal in September, adding that moving slowly to close the embassy would allow the U.S. to halt the closure if the Iraqi government takes the necessary action to protect U.S. assets.