Erbil, Kurdistan Region Iraq – The United States embassy in Baghdad is withdrawing some of its staff ahead of the first anniversary of the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in the Iraqi capital, according to media reports.
The drawdown will continue until after the anniversary of the killing of Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport in January this year, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The move also follows a string of rocket attacks and roadside bombs by Iran-backed armed groups on US installations in Iraq.
A senior Iraqi official termed the withdrawal a “minor drawdown based on security reservations from the US side”.
“They could come back,” the official told AFP news agency.
The US State Department has not commented on the reports.
Last month, US officials announced they would reduce the number of American troops in Iraq from about 3,000 to 2,500 by January 15 next year.
Tension in the region flared once again last week following the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran.
There has been no claim of responsibility but Iran has blamed Israel – a key US ally – of killing Fakhrizadeh using remote-controlled technology, promising a “harsh revenge”.
“Iran’s regime is more likely to – in its own words – ‘avenge’ Soleimani’s death after Trump leaves office,” said Kasra Aarabi, an Iran analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Arash Azizi, author of The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, US and Iran’s Global Ambitions, said Iran’s long-term goal is to see a complete US withdrawal from the region.
“But a sudden [American] withdrawal from Iraq now will actually be dangerous for Iran. It will give rise to the question: Is this the US preparing for an attack?”