Iraq regrets U.S. decision to close consulate in Basra

01 October, 2018, 23:41 | Author: Carlos George
  • Haidar Mohammed Ali  AFP  Getty Images FILE

The United States announced on Friday it will effectively close its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra and relocate diplomatic personnel assigned there following increasing threats from Iran and Iran-backed militia, including rocket fire.

In a written statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Iran did not act to stop "attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training and weapons".

A general a view of the city after a week of violent protests in Basra, Iraq September 9, 2018.

A USA diplomatic outpost and major regional airport near the southwest Iraqi city of Basra was the target of a rocket attack early Friday morning, amid continuing violent civil unrest in the oil-rich city.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry said it regretted the decision and urged foreign diplomats not to pay attention to "what is being circulated to undermine the climate of security and stability accompanying Iraq's relations with the countries of the world".

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will continue providing consular service in the area, the statement said.

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US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, was responding to warnings of impending strikes on the US Consulate in Baghdad. The American diplomat claimed Iran was trying to use the potential risk to USA staff there as a form of leverage on the administration of Donald Trump and his anti-Iran policies. The decision, though is focused on the effective closure of the consulate, at least temporarily. Neighbouring Iran is the other major outside power present in Iraq, alongside bitter foe the United States which led the 2003 invasion that toppled veteran dictator Saddam Hussein.

But Pompeo, in a recent CNN interview, made it clear Iran's use of militias and proxies throughout the Middle East could provoke a USA military response if U.S. interests come under attack.

In the past weeks, hundreds of angry demonstrators in Basra burned the Iranian consulate as well as the provincial government buildings and offices of leading political parties, and headquarters of some Shiite militias in protest of widespread corruption and water contamination in the province.

In a speech on Tuesday, national security adviser John Bolton promised there would be "hell to pay" if Iran continues to "cross" the USA or its allies.

In May, Trump withdrew the United States from an worldwide deal under which Iran was to put curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions.

Such claims are made while there are numerous overt and covert indications that foreign agents were involved in a recent brutal attack on the Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Basra, he noted.

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