Pompeo in Iraq: Iran escalating its activity

Secretary of State says he visited Iraq to ensure it remains a sovereign, independent nation.

Elad Benari ,

Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Iraq for a previously unannounced visit on Tuesday amid escalating tensions with Iran.

"The reason we’re going is you’ve all seen the reports that there have been escalating — information that indicates that Iran is escalating their activity," Pompeo told reporters traveling with him, according to The Hill.

"I wanted to go to Baghdad to speak with the leadership there, to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq was a sovereign, independent nation, and that the United States would continue to help build out partners in the region — the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Emiratis, all of the Gulf states who want to see a free, independent, sovereign Iraq. And so that’s the primary mission set," he added.

Pompeo’s comments and visit to Iraq follow the US announcement on Sunday that it would be deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the Middle East.

On Monday, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that he approved the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a US Air Force bomber task force to the Middle East because of "indications of a credible threat" by Iran.

And, on Tuesday, officials told CNN that one of the reasons for the deployment is intelligence showing that Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf.

Pompeo's surprise visit to Baghdad came after the State Department abruptly canceled a planned trip to Berlin on Tuesday. The Secretary of State said that he spoke with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whom he said "understood completely" needing to reschedule.

"He also knows that our relationship with Iraq is important, and we’re partners in the challenges that Iran presents to Germany and to Europe as well," Pompeo said, according to The Hill.

Pompeo’s trip to Iraq also comes ahead of an expected announcement by Iran on Wednesday that it will begin to renege on its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.