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.
Pompeo said the decision had been made to protect American diplomats against the violence, which he blames on Iran. The American diplomat claimed Iran was trying to use the potential risk to US staff there as a form of leverage on the administration of Donald Trump and his anti-Iran policies.
“Given the increasing and specific threats and incitement to attack
.@SecPompeo has placed U.S. Consulate Basrah on ordered departure. @USEmbBaghdad will continue to provide full consular services to for those in and around #Basrah. We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country. pic.twitter.com/QsAw2Ie4ns
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) September 28, 2018
our personnel and facilities in Iraq, I have directed that an appropriate temporary relocation of diplomatic personnel in Iraq take place,” Pompeo said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
However, Pompeo's claim was rejected by a senior Iraqi security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Washington Post quoted the official as saying the decision to close the consulate in Basra did not appear driven by any credible threat from Iran or the groups it supports.
“We are not aware of any intention by Iran or its friends in Iraq to attack American diplomats or the consulate,” the official said, dismissing the "unfortunate move" as a politically-motivated decision.
The developments come a few weeks after a group of attackers set fire to the Iranian consulate in Basra. Later, a number of rockets were also fired at the American consulate, which is located near the city’s airport.
The attacks followed several weeks of unrest in Basra, triggered by the residents’ anger over poor electricity supplies and impure water, which made thousands of people ill.
While Iran itself has fallen victim to the crisis and tension in the city, the US administration insists the Islamic Republic of Iran would be held accountable for any attack against US facilities.
The US’ blame game is in sharp contrast with the assertion of Iraqi officials, who have blamed the US, Daesh terrorists and remnants of the former Ba’ath regime for the recent wave of violence in Basra.
Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei blamed the US and its regional allies for a recent deadly attack on a military parade in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran.
In reaction, Pompeo has sent messages through diplomatic channels to Iran, denying that the US had a role in the terrorist attack, The Wall Street Journal
quoted a senior administration official as saying.