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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.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 8, 2020 - World

Where U.S. troops and military assets are deployed in the Middle East

An American soldier stands guard during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has maintained a costly presence in the Middle East for decades, with at least 60,000 troops currently stationed around the region, according to United States Central Command.

Driving the news: The killing of Iran's Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. drone strike has put the world on edge, with Iran promising revenge. The U.S. is preparing to deploy about 3,000 additional troops to the region, and had already sent 750 troops after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.