Intel: US marshals diplomatic support after Iraq embassy attack

al-monitor US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, US, Dec. 19, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Erin Scott.
Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris

@brykharris_ALM

Topics covered

iranian influence, baghdad, us embassy, us-iraqi relations, us-iranian conflict

Jan 2, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is busy marshalling support for the United States in the region as Iraq becomes ground zero in the escalating feud between Washington and Tehran. Iran-backed militias may have ended their siege on the US Embassy in Baghdad, but more trouble may yet lie ahead for the troubled US-Iraqi security partnership.

Why it matters: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has agreed to hold a vote on expelling American forces from Iraq under a deal reached with the Kataib Hezbollah militia, a potentially contentious point as the United States seeks to continue its maximum pressure campaign against Iran and continue its campaign against the lingering Islamic State cells.

Pompeo spoke with Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday, stressing “Iraq’s obligation to prevent further attacks against our diplomatic mission,” echoing President Donald Trump’s message to him on Tuesday.

The secretary of state also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thank him for “Israel’s unwavering commitment to countering Iran’s malign regional influence” as well as Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to thank him for “Qatar’s solidarity in the face of Iran’s malign regional influence.”

Before the embassy attack, Pompeo also spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed on Monday to discuss US strikes on Kataib Hezbollah in retaliation for rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq that led to the death of a US defense contractor.

What’s next: On Wednesday, the State Department renewed its travel advisory warning Americans against traveling to Iraq because of “terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict.” The travel advisory notes that the US Embassy will not provide consular services until further notice on account of Kataib Hezbollah’s attack earlier this week. (The US consulate in Erbil is currently the only functioning American diplomatic facility in Iraq as Washington shuttered its consulate in Basra in 2018.)

Know more: Al-Monitor’s Iraq editor Ali Mamouri details the embassy attack and the Iran-backed militias behind it.

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