The U.S. State Department issued a Security Alert Wednesday morning ordering the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government employees from Iraq.
The alert calls for the immediate evacuation of non-emergency workers from both the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.
“Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended,” the alert reads. “The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq.”
The order comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, the administration has reimposed sanctions on Iran.
And in April, the administration said countries that import Iranian oil will be subject to sanctions, CNN reported.
Sanctions against Iran have pushed the nation toward economic crisis in recent months.
“Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal,” according to The Times of Israel.
It appears that this is not the only way Iran has attempted to push western leaders to meet its nuclear deal demands.
The U.S. government reported last week that evidence suggests Iran and its proxies could soon take aim at Americans and American interests in the area, according to the The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone attacks that targeted Saudi Arabian pumping stations earlier this week.
And Wednesday’s State Department evacuation order came after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a similar alert Sunday.
“The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad advises all U.S. citizens of heightened tensions in Iraq and the requirement to remain vigilant,” the alert reads.
Americans in the area should “avoid places known as U.S. citizen gathering points,” the alert said. But in general, U.S. citizens should “not travel to Iraq” at all.
Last week, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, who heads U.S. Central Command, issued a blunt warning to Iran as the U.S. dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region, the Washington Examiner reported.
“First, it sends a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on U.S. interests will be met with unrelenting force,” McKenzie said at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference in Washington, D.C.
“If a fight is to be had, we will be fully prepared to respond and defend our interests,” McKenzie continued. “And it won’t be a fair fight.”
Trump also weighed in Tuesday on the growing tensions with Iran, denying a report that U.S. officials were working on a plan that would send upward of 100,000 troops to the Middle East.
“I think it’s fake news,” Trump said. “Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that.”
“And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” Trump said.
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