USA blames Iran as it readies to shut Iraq consulate

Iraqi protesters burn the Iranian Consulate in Basra in early September

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Friday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had placed the US consulate in Basra on "ordered departure", temporarily relocating the US diplomatic personnel in the Arab country. While the rockets landed harmlessly away from the facilities, they underscored heightening tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iraq tries to form a new government.

He blamed the security threat specifically on Iran, its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and militias under the control of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force.

But Pompeo, in a recent CNN interview, made it clear Iran's use of militias and proxies throughout the Middle East could provoke a U.S. military response if USA interests come under attack.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited threats from Iran in a statement and a senior U.S. official told CNN that the decision to place the facility on "ordered departure" was prompted by "security threats from Iran".

"Given the increasing and specific threats and incitement to attack our personnel and facilities in Iraq, I have directed that a temporary and appropriate relocation of diplomatic personnel in Iraq take place".

"We are working closely with our partners in the Government and Security Forces of Iraq to address these threats", said Pompeo.

Earlier, the Iranian Foreign Ministry called USA allegations of inciting violence in Basra "astonishing, provocative and irresponsible".

The developments in Basra come after a week of confrontation between the United States and Iran at the United Nations, including dueling speeches by the presidents of each country.

The increasing violence and targeting of the U.S.in Iraq is the latest sign of increasing tensions between the US and Iran, which is subjected to harsh economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

In a statement released Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited "repeated incidents of fire" from Iranian-backed militias.

The department also renewed its advisory urging Americans not to travel to Iraq, saying "numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq" and "U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping".

Oil-rich Basra, located in southern Iraq, has been the scene of anti-government protests in recent weeks by Iraqis fed up with poor services and corruption.

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