Iraq’s Hussein says closure of U.S. embassy ‘not in the interest’ of Iraqis

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo are pictured in Washington, U.S., August 19, 2020.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday evening, the ministry of foreign affairs said on Saturday.

The two sides discussed bilateral relations between the United States and Iraq as well as the U.S. administration’s initial decision to close its embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Iraqi minister expressed concern about the decision, saying it could lead to “results that are not in the interest of the Iraqi people”, the statement read.

“The Iraqi government has taken a number of security, organizational, political, and diplomatic measures to stop the attacks on the Green Zone and the airport,” Hussein was quoted as saying.

Hussein further said there would be “tangible positive results” in the near future, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.

Secretary Pompeo, for his part, stressed the relations between the United States and Iraq “are important” for both sides, according to the statement.

Iraqi officials and Western diplomats said the United States had made preparations to withdraw diplomats from Iraq after warning Baghdad it could shut its embassy if attacks on the Americans continued.

In recent weeks rocket attacks near the embassy have increased and roadside bombs targeted convoys carrying equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition. One roadside attack hit a British convoy in Baghdad, the first of its kind against Western diplomats in Iraq for years.

On Sept. 28, three children and two women were killed when two militia rockets hit a family home, the Iraqi military said. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the intended target.

Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militia groups. Iran has not directly commented on the incidents but groups believed to be connected to Iran-aligned militias have claimed responsibility for some attacks.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said on Wednesday that Iraq would protect foreign mission buildings and ensure only the state has weapons, as the United States warned it could shut down its embassy in Baghdad if attacks continued on Americans.

“Iraq is keen on enforcing the rule of law, the state’s monopoly on having weapons, protecting foreign missions, and diplomatic buildings,” Kadhimi told 25 ambassadors and Charges d’Affaires of foreign countries during a meeting in Baghdad.

“Those who carry out attacks on foreign missions are seeking to destabilize Iraq and sabotage its regional and international relations,” he said.

Any move by the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in a country where it has thousands of troops would be seen in the region as an escalation of its confrontation with Iran, which Washington blames for missile and bomb attacks.

Iraqis fear their country could become a battleground in a proxy war.

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