The U.S. State Department has ordered all non-emergency personnel from its embassy in Iraq as a result of rising tensions in the region, officials said Wednesday.
The warning comes amid fears that Iranian-allied militia groups could target Americans in Iraq. The U.S. military deployed an aircraft carrier and strike group to the Strait of Hormuz last week because of the new threats.
“U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping,” the travel warning said. “Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians.
“Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S.citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.
“Non-emergency personnel at the U.S. consulate in Erbil were also asked to leave. The state department ended operations at the consulate in Basrah last October.
The Trump administration ordered new sanctions last week on Iranian metals, including iron, steel, aluminum and copper. The materials are Iran’s largest sources of export revenue, other than oil, and account for about 10 percent of the country’s economy.
Demonstrations ensued in Iran over the sanctions as President Hassan Rouhani threatened to fully withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump withdrew the United States from the Obama-era pact last year.
Rouhani announced last week it would start stockpiling low enriched uranium and heavy water and that it would restart its Arak nuclear reactor, which was closed and partially dismantled under the agreement if it was not compensated for Trump restrictions in April.
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