BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Speculations about the closure of the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital over an alleged threat are a way of exerting pressure on the Iraqi government and are related to the ongoing presidential campaign in the United States, Mohammad Reza, the head of Security and Defense Committee of the Iraqi parliament, said on Monday.
"During the yesterday press conference, U.S. president [Donald Trump] did not address this issue. I do not expect that the U.S. embassy will be closed. It is used as a kind of pressure on the Iraqi government and [is related to] strain over the [presidential] election that the U.S. cares about at the present time. No more, no less,” Reza said.
Al Arabiya reported, citing U.S. sources in Iraq, that U.S. diplomats were afraid of a possible attack on the mission and that hostages could be taken.
The committee head added that he did not see any reasons for the closure of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and there was no such threat that media outlets described.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the U.S. and Iraqi officials, that Washington was planning to close the embassy for a period of up to three months due to its ‘vulnerable’ whereabouts — the so-called green zone — that is often targeted by rocket attacks.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in a phone call a week ago to President Barham Salih, two Iraqi government sources said. The conversation was initially reported by an Iraqi news website.
By Sunday, Washington had begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken, those sources and the two Western diplomats claimed.
Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, issued a statement last week pleading for groups to avoid an escalation that would turn Iraq into a battleground.
Meanwhile, secretary-general of al-Nujaba movement Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi also emphasized that Iraqi resistance forces will continue to adhere to divine and human principles, and warned that the U.S. has ordered its mercenaries to attack civilians’ houses around the embassy in a bid to tarnish the image of the resistance.
Sheikh al-Kaabi made the remarks in a seven-point statement on the anti-occupation operations of Iraqi Resistance Forces and provided explanations about how they distinguish diplomatic delegations and their places from occupying forces’ positions.
"None of the hostiles can remember that we attacked any civilian targets. It is our clear position that targeting diplomatic delegations is an obvious violation and believes that the safety of diplomatic delegations is essential to improve the relations of other counties with Iraq and this will ensure our country’s prosperity and serving our noble nation,” he added.
Attacks on U.S. troops have been escalating in recent weeks. So far this month alone, there have been 25 attacks on convoys carrying supplies to U.S. or coalition facilities, on the Green Zone where the U.S. Embassy is located, or on the Baghdad airport, according to a compilation by Iraq analyst Joel Wing. Last month, he counted 24 such attacks.
More than 17 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Trump said last month the United States would eventually withdraw all troops from the conflict-ridden nation, though he did not provide a timetable. There are currently about 5,000 troops in Iraq.