The United States has announced it is closing its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra and evacuating its diplomats from there after increasing threats and rocket fire from Iran and Iran-backed fighters.
The decision adds to mounting tension between the US and Iran, which is the target of increasing economic sanctions imposed by Washington.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, explaining the move, renewed a warning that his country would hold Iran responsible for any attacks on US diplomatic facilities and citizens.
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The move follows recent rocket attacks that Pompeo said were directed at the consulate in Basra.
US officials said the rockets, however, had not impacted the consulate, which is located in the Basra airport compound.
“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He did not explicitly say whether a US response was imminent, however, and other US officials did not disclose potential response options.
The US State Department said the consulate was placed on “ordered departure,” which technically involves a drawdown in staff. Although some personnel could remain on the diplomatic compound, the move is believed to effectively close the consulate, at least temporarily.
In a statement, Iraq’s foreign ministry said it “regrets the American decision to pull its staff out of Basra”.