U.S. Closes Consulate in Iraqi City of Basra, Evacuates All Diplomats After Rocket Attack

An Iraqi protester waves a national flag while demonstrating outside the burned-down local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on Sept. 7, during demonstrations over problems including poor public services.
Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department is temporarily closing the U.S. Consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and evacuating all diplomats stationed there, following a rocket attack early Friday morning.

Although there were no casualties, concerns back in Washington grew. The decision comes out of concern for the safety of U.S. personnel stationed in that Iraqi city near the border with Iran.

In a statement released Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of fire” from Iranian-backed militias.

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said.

He blamed the security threat specifically on Iran, its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and militias under the control of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force.

The Basra airport was also the target of an attack earlier this month. NPR’s Jane Arraf reported that according to Iraqi security officials, the attacks didn’t land on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate compounds. There were no injuries or serious damage, but the White House, in a statement, called them “life-threatening attacks” against its diplomatic missions.

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons,” the White House said.

Basra hosts one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq. It is the country’s oil capital and main port but has been battered by successive wars and neglect for decades. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, Basra fell under militia control and as a result, there was rampant corruption.

Hundreds of anti-government protests have descended on the city since the beginning of July.

Arraf reported that protesters are demanding much needed government services, and a water crisis has pushed them to the edge.

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SOURCE: NPR, Noor Wazwaz