US orders non-emergency employees to leave Iraq

ANKARA

The U.S. has ordered the departure of non-emergency employees from Iraq amid rising tension between Washington and Iran.

The order covers employees both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.

“The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq,” the embassy in Baghdad said in a statement on Wednesday.

Normal visa services at both posts have been temporarily suspended as well, it added.

On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned its citizens against travelling to Iraq amid heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran with Washington sending a Patriot missile battery and a Navy amphibious transport dock ship to the Middle East.

The U.S. administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and five other countries.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would resume high-level enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade levels if Tehran’s interests in the nuclear deal are not protected within 60 days. 

* Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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