Security concerns have forced the US to withdraw some of its staff from its embassy in the Iraq capital Baghdad, AFP reported, citing an unnamed Iraqi official on December 3rd.
A US State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the withdrawal but said the safety of US officials, citizens and facilities in Iraq “remains our highest priority.”
“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,” a department official said.
US Ambassador Matthew Tueller remains in Iraq, the State Department said, and that the embassy continues to operate.
Washington Post cited another unnamed source, familiar with the situation, who said that the withdrawal was a temporary “de-risking” that will continue after the January 3rd anniversary of the assassination of IRGC’s commander Major General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike.
Reportedly, US and Israeli military officials have stepped up their coordination in preparation for a potential Iranian retaliation to the assassination of its senior nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Both Israel’s army and the US Central Command have reportedly taken measures that include the detection of missile and rocket fire on US and Israeli targets in the Middle East.
On December 2nd, US President Donald Trump’s administration ordered the scaling down of its presence in Iraq and the Middle East, according to Politico.
US aircraft and heavy bombers were stationed in the Gulf to secure and protect the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Israel has not commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, an unnamed senior official in the Trump administration told US media that Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, was behind the operation.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader vowed to retaliate. Former air force commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Hossein Dehghan said after the killing that “we will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action”.
As mentioned earlier, the anniversary of Major General Qassem Soleimani’s killing is nearing, and a retaliation might come.
Furthermore, there are still expectations and reports of a farewell strike ordered by US President Donald Trump to take place, which would prompt an immediate and sharp Iranian response.
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