Non-essential U.S. government employees in Iraq have been told to leave the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil by the State Department amid rising tensions with Iran.
In a statement issued early Wednesday morning, the department warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Iraq citing the risk for "violence and kidnapping."
"Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad," the statement said. "The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited."
"Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict," the statement added.
The announcement comes just one week after the U.S. announced it would be sending a carrier strike group to the Middle East in an effort to send a "clear and unmistakable message" to Iran.
"In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force," National Security Adviser Bolton said in a statement.
"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces," Bolton said.
U.S. officials say intelligence reports indicated the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces they are free to go after American military personnel in the region, NBC News reported. Specific details about the threats have not been released.
Iran has denied the reports, accusing the U.S. of using "fake intelligence."
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