Sep 30, 2020 - World

Bipartisan senators ask Trump administration not to close U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Sens. Mitt Romney and Chris Murphy in the Capitol building in 2019.

Sens. Mitt Romney and Chris Murphy in the Capitol in 2019. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) issued a statement Wednesday responding to reports that the Trump administration is planning to close the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and calling on the State Department to reconsider.

Why it matters: The bipartisan call comes amid alleged threats from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to close the embassy within weeks if Iraqi leaders do not prevent Iranian-backed militia groups from continuing to launch attacks at the massive, heavily fortified compound, the New York Times reports.

  • U.S. intelligence agencies have recently discovered specific threats against American diplomats and security forces in Iraq, including against the embassy itself, according to Politico.
  • U.S. officials gave Iraqi leaders a 10-day timeframe to show that they made progress in thwarting the attacks. If they could not show progress, the U.S. would withdraw from the embassy.

What they're saying: "We stand with the State Department in its efforts to protect American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad," said Romney and Murphy, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism.

  • "We are extremely concerned that the implications of fully withdrawing our already limited diplomatic teams from the Baghdad Embassy could serve to undermine U.S.-Iraqi relations to the benefit of malign Iranian influence, cause our allies to also withdraw their diplomats from Baghdad, and undercut missions to train Iraqi security forces."
  • "We urge the Administration to provide a briefing to the Senate as soon as possible to explain the nature of the threats to our Embassy personnel, steps the State Department is taking to mitigate the threats in coordination with our Iraqi partners, and any consequence we would expect if the U.S. does vacate the Baghdad Embassy.”

Flashback: Staff were evacuated from the embassy in December 2019 when protesters and Iranian-backed militia members stormed the compound. The resulting escalation between the two sides culminated in the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which sparked fears that Iran would retaliate in a significant way against U.S. targets.

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