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Non-essential US embassy personnel ordered to leave Iraq immediately

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The US State Department on Wednesday ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in Baghdad and also the consulate in Arbil, as tensions mount between the United States and Iraq’s neighbor Iran.

Washington has ramped up pressure on Tehran in recent days, accusing Iran of planning “imminent” attacks in the region, and bolstering the American military presence in the Gulf.

“Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians,” a travel advisory warned.

“Anti-US sectarian militias may also threaten US citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq.”

The US last year shut its consulate in the protest-hit southern Iraqi city of Basra, blaming “indirect fire” by Iran-backed forces and warning its rival of retaliation for any damage.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week paid a surprise trip to Baghdad in a move to bolster ties with Iraq as it pushes ahead with its “maximum pressure” against Tehran – a US arch-rival, but an ally of Iraq.

‘Very specific threats’

He told reporters he had made the trip because Iranian forces are “escalating their activity” and said the threat of attacks were “very specific.”

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Pompeo met with Iraq President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, and spoke to them “about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”

The Pentagon said it was sending several massive, nuclear-capable B-52s to the region in response to “recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces.”

Both Pompeo and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have this week played down fears that their countries were seeking conflict.

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But National Security Advisor John Bolton warned Iran that Washington would respond with “unrelenting force” to any attack by Tehran, including by its regional allies.

Blasts involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of Iraq, including the capital Baghdad, the advisory added. Arbil is the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital, in northern Iraq.


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New Orleans funk icon and co-founder of the Neville Brothers Art Neville dies at 81

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Art Neville, a New Orleans funk legend and co-founder of the Neville Brothers, has died, his brother said Monday. He was 81 years old.

The singer and keyboard player who answered to the sobriquet "Poppa Funk" was well known as the voice of the "Mardi Gras Mambo," which quickly became a mainstay of his home city's famed carnival after he first played it at age 17.

"Artie Poppa Funk Neville you are loved dearly by every one who knew you. Love always your lil' big brother AARON (we ask for privacy during this time of mourning)," his brother, soul singer Aaron Neville, tweeted.

His death follows that of another famed New Orleans musician, the blues pianist Dr. John, who died last month.

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Native Hawaiians continue protest a week after telescope construction was set to start on sacred lan

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Indigenous protectors of Mauna Kea oppose the $1.4 billion project

A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea—a dormant volcano on Hawaii's Big Island—thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.

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Gun ownership increases homicides — but only a very specific kind of them: study

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Does the frequency of gun ownership impact the homicide rate? In the broad sense, many studies have shown it does. But how does it do so exactly?

A new study, conducted at the University of Indianapolis and published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, offers a profound hint. The study, which examined homicide rates by state from 1990 to 2016, suggests that most forms of homicide — those committed against friends, acquaintances, and strangers — are negligibly affected by firearm ownership rates. But one particular category of homicide is sharply correlated with the presence of guns: domestic violence.

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