US withdraws staff from Baghdad embassy amid concerns of possible Iranian attack

BAGHDAD — The US is withdrawing some staff from its embassy in Baghdad, Iraqi and US officials say, temporarily reducing personnel amid regional security concerns.

US Ambassador Mathew Tueller says the reduction won’t affect the mission’s work, adding that he will continue to carry out his duties from the embassy for the “foreseeable future.”

“I will do so with the support of a core team of American diplomats and US advisors to the Iraqi military,” he says in a video statement posted on the US Embassy’s Facebook page this evening, following local reports that the US is withdrawing some Baghdad embassy staff as tensions with Iran and its allies spike.

It isn’t immediately clear how many personnel are to be withdrawn, nor does Tueller give any reasons.

A US official, however, says the decision stems from concern about a possible Iranian retaliatory strike on the first anniversary of the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassim Soleimani, and senior Iraqi militia leaders near Baghdad’s airport in January. The killing sparked outrage and led Iraq’s parliament to pass a non-binding resolution days later calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq.

The government later retreated from such threats, but Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi still faces pressure from Iran-aligned groups to eject US forces.

The US official, who isn’t authorized to give press statements and speaks on condition of anonymity, also cites concerns about possible Iranian retaliation for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran last week.

Iran has accused US ally Israel of being behind the assassination. Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, has repeatedly declined to comment on the attack.

— AP

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