The US government has decided to withdraw some staff from its embassy in Baghdad through the final weeks of the Trump administration, officials said Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.
A person familiar with the withdrawal described it as a temporary “de-risking” that will continue after the January 3 anniversary of the elimination of senior Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani last year by a US drone strike in Baghdad.
The State Department provided no official confirmation of the drawdown but said that ensuring the safety of US government personnel and facilitates was its “highest priority.”
“The State Department continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays,” a department official said, according to The Washington Post.
The department official said that US Ambassador Matthew Tueller would remain in Iraq and that the embassy would continue to operate.
Iran retaliated for the elimination of Soleimani by launching a volley of ballistic missiles at the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad. While no US personnel were killed in that attack, at least 109 soldiers suffered from brain trauma.
Since then, rocket attacks have targeted Iraqi bases as well as the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where the US embassy is located.
Wednesday’s report follows last week’s elimination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the killing, raising the possibility that Iran or its proxies might retaliate against Western targets.