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Iraq: US Deploys More Forces, Pompeo Postpones Visit to Ukraine

Iraq: US Deploys More Forces, Pompeo Postpones Visit to Ukraine

Thursday, 2 January, 2020 - 10:15
Iraqi security forces deploy during the second day of protests at the US embassy in Baghdad (Handout via Reuters)

The United States authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the US Central Command area of operations in response to recent events near the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, announced Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

In a statement, Esper indicated that approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.

A number of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias attacked the embassy’s premises and security personnel fired tear gas to repel the attack. The embassy, in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, has been put under lock-down, but protesters have not been able to breach the compound.

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world,” added the statement.

Fox News reported that at least 500 paratroopers already were making their way to Kuwait, and could head to Iraq from there. In addition, the alert brigade of roughly 4,000 paratroopers has been told to pack their bags for possible deployment in the days ahead.

The channel has learned more than 100 Marines have arrived at the embassy to bolster security, after Iranian-backed militiamen attempted to breach the compound.

The US embassy in Iraqi issued a statement announced that due to militia attacks at the compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice.

“All future appointments are canceled. US citizens are advised to not approach the Embassy. The US Consulate General in Erbil is open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo postponed a planned trip to Ukraine to deal with the ongoing developments out of Baghdad, the State Department announced Wednesday.

The State Department announced that Pompeo must postpone his visit to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of US personnel in the Middle East.

“Secretary Pompeo's trip will be rescheduled in the near future and he looks forward to the visit at that time.”

In addition, French Defense Minister Florence Parly has condemned the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and expressed solidarity with France’s coalition partner.

Speaking before the crew of the French frigate Courbet in a New Year’s address, Parly showed full solidarity with US troops.

“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out against the positions of the international coalition in Iraq and today’s attempted incursion into the US embassy compound in Baghdad.”

Al-Sumaria channel quoted an official source saying that some embassies are considering transferring their activities from Baghdad to Erbil in the Kurdistan region.

The source said that the Green Zone is no longer safe, indicating that there are fears of the United States taking greater escalatory steps.

An Iraqi military source revealed that several bases hosting US forces have declared a state of alert in anticipation of attacks after the events that took place in the embassy.

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