US fears attack on Baghdad diplomatic mission, prepares to close embassy

US fears attack on Baghdad diplomatic mission, prepares to close embassy

CAIRO: The United States stands ready to close its embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where rocket attacks occasionally occur, Sputnik news agency quoted media reports.

“What we’re being told is that it is a gradual closure of the embassy over two to three months,” an Iraqi official told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, adding that the closure could be coupled with the withdrawal of American troops.

According to the newspaper, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the warning about the possible embassy closure in recent calls to Iraqi President Barham Salih and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Two Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal that Washington is already taking preliminary steps so it could close the embassy while retaining its consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region.

Al-Arabiya reported, citing US sources in Iraq, that American diplomats are afraid of a possible attack on the embassy in Baghdad and that hostages could be taken. According to Al-Arabiya, Pompeo has given the Iraqi prime minister until Monday to meet a number of conditions, including a decisive response of the government to the regular attacks on the Green Zone.

The Green Zone comes under occasional rocket attacks on account of it being the location where government buildings and foreign embassies are situated, which is also not far from the Baghdad International Airport, adjacent to a military airfield. As a rule, such incidents do not result in casualties among the civilians and do not entail significant damage.

In mid-June, the joint command of the Iraqi armed forces said that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi had ordered the creation of special committees to curb such attacks.