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Americans urged to leave Iraq immediately

WORLD
By Hillary Orinde | January 3rd 2020
Iran Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, killed in a US strike, was one of the most popular figures in Iran and seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies. [AFP]

The United States of America (USA) has told its citizens in Iraq to leave the country immediately due to ‘heightened tensions’ in the region.

The level 4 travel advisory also warned citizens to stay away from the US Embassy in Iraq which was attacked on Tuesday.

A level 4 advisory, the worst of the grouping, is issued during the most dangerous situations and urges American travelers to reconsider whether they should travel to a country at all.

“US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land,” the statement read, adding that all public consular operations in Baghdad were suspended until further notice.

It went on to note that the Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, was open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance.

The US State Department follows one issued by the French government asking its citizens to be ‘prudent and discreet’ and stay away from any gatherings in Iran.

Where it all began

Tension between Iran and the US hit the fan when President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iran's most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani.

He was killed at Baghdad International Airport in an airstrike.

According to AFP, The Pentagon said Trump ordered Soleimani's "killing," after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy.

The Pentagon further justified the killing by saying he was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the attack was “aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Declaring three days of mourning across the country, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to take "severe revenge" for Soleimani's death.

The developments come after an unprecedented attack on the US mission in Baghdad.

A mob of Hashed supporters surrounded the US embassy on Tuesday in outrage over American air strikes that killed 25 fighters from the network's hardline Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which is backed by Iran.

The US had acted in response to a rocket attack days earlier that had killed an American contractor working in Iraq.

Trump had blamed Iran for a spate of rocket attacks targeting US forces as well as the siege at the embassy, saying: "They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat."

US lawmakers however were not told in advance of Friday's attack, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement.

Ties between the US and Iran have deteriorated since Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018.

It then reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, aiming to choke off its oil exports.

Additional reporting by AFP

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