The US State Department has warned the Iraqi government that it is planning to withdraw from its Baghdad embassy unless Iraq controls attacks on American personnel, The Washington Post reported.
According to the report, the move is a surprise for the Iraqis.
“We hope the American administration will reconsider it,” Ahmed Mulla Talal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, said Sunday, commenting on the reported US intentions. “There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship, and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them.”
The WaPo claims that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Kadhimi on US plans to withdraw on Saturday night. The report also cited an Iraqi official who said that the US government demanded "stronger action against militias", noting that the embassy shutdown could be averted if those actions are taken.
"A senior official in Kadhimi’s office said Sunday that the prime minister is lobbying European partners to try to persuade the United States to reverse its decision, citing the “negative consequences” that it might have on the country’s stability", The WaPo said.
According to Sky News Arabia, the news on US plans to withdraw from the Iraqi embassy might be officially announced on Monday.
Attacks on the US Embassy Area
The US embassy is situated in the so-called "Green Zone", which is subject to frequent rocket attacks, the latest of which occurred on 16 September.
While no group officially claims responsibility for the attacks, the US denounces “the presence of lawless, Iran-backed militias", with the US State Department urging Iraq to "fulfill its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities".
Attacks have intensified following the January assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani conducted on direct order from US President Donald Trump.
In response to the killing, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign troops, including Americans, from the country, with Trump threatening to impose sanctions on Iraq after the vote.
According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, there are currently some 5,200 US soldiers in Iraq.