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Archive for Iraq

Newsline: Iran blacklists U.S. ambassador in Iraq, reciprocating U.S. move

Iran blacklisted the U.S. ambassador in Iraq and two other diplomats, following a similar move by the United States against Iran’s envoy to Baghdad, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said. Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter that ambassador Matthew Tueller “has had a central role in coordinating terrorist acts in Iraq & beyond” including the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad in January. (https://news.yahoo.com/iran-blacklists-u-ambassador-iraq-115646897.html) Tehran’s move, which allows the seizure of assets within Iran of sanctioned individuals, is symbolic and unlikely to have any impact on the U.S. diplomats. On Thursday, the United States blacklisted Iraj Masjedi, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, saying he has for years overseen the training and support of Iraqi militia groups responsible for attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

Newsline: U.S. pleased Iraq doing more to protect U.S. embassy

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was pleased that the Iraqi government was doing more to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad from Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias but declined to provide an update on whether Washington was still considering to shut down its embassy. “We are happy that the Iraqis are doing more to provide increased security for our team on the ground there,” Pompeo told a State Department news conference. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iraq-pompeo/u-s-pleased-iraq-doing-more-to-protect-u-s-embassy-pompeo-idUSKBN26Z28Y) Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened last month to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias that have attacked U.S. interests with rockets and roadside bombs. A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, on Sunday said it has suspended rocket attacks on U.S. forces on condition that Iraq’s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

Newsline: Iraq denounces ‘dangerous’ US embassy pullout threat

Iraq’s foreign minister has said his country hopes the United States will reconsider its decision to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad, as a group of ambassadors expressed their willingness to help Iraq tackle security challenges. Fuad Hussein spoke at a news conference during a heated week sparked by the US warning it was taking measures to close its embassy in Baghdad. “We hope that the US government and American administration will reconsider this decision … because the decision is a wrong one, it was taken at the wrong time and the wrong place,” Hussein said. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/30/iraq-hopes-us-reconsiders-embassy-closure-warns-of-danger) He said it would also send a message to the armed groups perpetuating the attacks that they were effective in reaching their political aims. The US said the embassy would be closed unless the Iraqi government took action to stop frequent rocket and improvised explosive device attacks by Iran-backed groups and rogue armed elements against the American presence in the country.

Newsline: Threat to evacuate U.S. diplomats from Iraq raises fear of war

Washington has made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy, two Iraqi officials and two Western diplomats said, a step Iraqis fear could turn their country into a battle zone. Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has up to 5,000 troops would be widely seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iraq-iran/threat-to-evacuate-u-s-diplomats-from-iraq-raises-fear-of-war-idUSKBN26J1Z6) That in turn would open the possibility of military action, with just weeks to go before an election in which President Donald Trump has campaigned on a hard line towards Tehran and its proxies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said. The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website. By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats said. The concern among the Iraqis is that withdrawing diplomats would be followed quickly by military action against forces Washington blamed for attacks.

Newsline: U.S. Warns Iraq It Is Preparing to Shut Down Baghdad Embassy

The Trump administration has warned Iraq it is preparing to shut down its embassy in Baghdad unless the Iraqi government stops a spate of rocket attacks by Shiite militias against U.S. interests, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Sunday, in a fresh crisis in relations between the two allies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the warning in recent calls to Iraqi President Barham Salih and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the officials said. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, told Iraq’s foreign minister, Fuad Hussein, the policy decision had been directed by President Trump and that the two countries had entered a new era in their relations, they added. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-warns-iraq-it-is-preparing-to-shut-down-baghdad-embassy-11601238966) The State Department and the U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the discussions. Two Iraqi officials said, however, that the U.S. has informed Iraqi authorities that it is beginning to take preliminary steps so it could close the embassy over the next few months while retaining its consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq. “What we’re being told is that it is a gradual closure of the embassy over two to three months,” said an Iraqi official, who added that it might be coupled with the withdrawal of American troops in the country.

Newsline: Top Iraqi diplomat in Iran after US Embassy warning

Iraq’s foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Saturday morning for a two-day visit of wide-ranging talks in the wake of the US warning it might close its Baghdad embassy due to threats, including from Iranian-backed militias. Iraq’s Fuad Hussein and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif discussed bilateral relations, including the implementation of agreements reached during Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kazimi’s visit to Tehran in July. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/top-iraqi-diplomat-in-iran-after-us-embassy-warning/1986783) According to diplomatic sources, regional developments figured prominently in the talks between the two officials, including the security situation in Iraq and a string of attacks on US forces. The visit comes after the US threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi government fails to take action against militia groups targeting US forces in Iraq. Iraqi media reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dispatched a letter of warning to Iraqi President Barham Salih threatening to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad. The letter warned that the US will “liquidate” those responsible for attacking US interests in Iraq, referring to militia groups like Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, both backed by Iran. The US also reportedly threatened to withhold aid to Iraq from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, besides sanctions, if the US Embassy is forced to close.

Newsline: Explosive device hits British diplomatic vehicle in Baghdad

A British diplomatic vehicle was hit by an explosive device on Tuesday on the airport road in Baghdad but no one was injured, the British Embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad said. “We can confirm that one British Embassy Baghdad vehicle was struck by a roadside IED this morning in Baghdad. There were no casualties,” an embassy spokesperson said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/iraq-security-britain/update-2-explosive-device-hits-british-diplomatic-vehicle-in-baghdad-no-injuries-embassy-idUSL8N2GC36H) Two security sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the explosion was caused by a homemade explosive device that was planted on the side of the road. Iraqi special forces closed down the road leading to the Green Zone from the western side, they said. Tuesday’s attack is the first attack of its kind on a diplomatic convoy along the road for years. Separately on Tuesday, two Katyusha rockets landed inside the Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, but caused no casualties or damage, the military said in a statement. Rocket attacks against U.S targets have increased over the past few weeks, with many rockets landing in the vicinity of Baghdad airport or the Green Zone. Last week, in two separate incidents several rockets landed within the perimeter of the airport.

Newsline: Denmark to Open Embassy in Baghdad

Denmark said on Thursday it plans to open an embassy in Baghdad this autumn as part of its efforts to help combat Islamic State and contribute to the stabilization of the situation in both Iraq and Syria. “With our commitment, we help to ensure that Islamic State doesn’t once again gain a foothold in the region and thus the opportunity to threaten Europe and Denmark,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement. (https://www.usnews.coam/news/world/articles/2020-09-10/denmark-to-open-embassy-in-baghdad) Denmark will use its representation to strengthen the dialogue with Iraq in areas such as migration, counter-terrorism and prosecution of crimes committed by Islamic State, he said. Denmark takes over the leadership of a NATO-led mission training Iraqi security forces from Canada by the end of 2020.

Newsline: Iraq cancels Turkish Defense minister visit, summons ambassador

Iraq cancelled the Turkish defence minister’s visit to the country which was scheduled for Thursday, Iraq’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The ministry also summoned the Turkish ambassador to hand him “a strong protest note and inform him of Iraq’s confirmed rejection of his country’s attacks and violations”, the statement added. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-turkey/iraq-cancels-turkish-defense-minister-visit-summons-ambassador-statement-idUSKCN2572S9) A Turkish drone strike on Tuesday in the Sidakan area in northeastern Iraq, near the Turkish and Iranian borders, killed two members of Iraq’s border guard and the driver of the vehicle they were in, the Iraqi military said.

Newsline: Rocket attack on US embassy Baghdad

Media in Iraq reported sirens and a rocket attack on the US embassy in Baghdad in the first hours of Tuesday morning. Sirens were heard after 2 a.m. (https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/rocket-attack-on-us-embassy-baghdad-report-628504) Amman-based newspaper Al-Hadath said sirens had been heard at the large US embassy compound. Lebanon’s Akhbar media said a missile had been launched at the US embassy and Al-Ghad said that 3 rockets landed near the embassy. Al-Arabiya and other channels also reported the attack. Videos did not show the attack or the sirens. The attack comes after Iraqis stormed MBC media claiming it had included a program insulting the memory of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader the US killed in January. This comes amid heightened US-Iran tensions.