WASHINGTON, D.C./BAGHDAD – The US State Department reportedly plans to significantly and permanently draw down the number of its personnel in Iraq. CNN reported that it had obtained a memo sent in early December by the State Department to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlining the plan to cut the number of its Iraq-based staffers by 28% by the end of May 2020.
The reduction would mean 114 fewer people at the US Embassy in Baghdad, 15 fewer people at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, and eight fewer people at the Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, the report said.
The cuts would also include Defense Department and US Agency for International Development personnel, the report added. The diplomatic mission, the memo announced, would still be able to achieve its “core objectives” despite the drawdown.
The reported plan comes amid the ongoing US attempts to accuse Iran of trying to target its interests in the Arab country. Back in May, the State Department, in a travel advisory, ordered “non-emergency US government employees” to leave the Baghdad embassy and the consulate in Erbil.
The advisory did not mention Iran, but senior State Department officials stated at the time that the cautionary note had been issued because of an “imminent threat” from Iranian “proxies”. Rejecting the claims back then, Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations said that Washington’s measure was “the latest episode in America’s propaganda war against Iran based on fake intelligence reports”.
Most recently, US Secretary of State Pompeo threatened Iran with “decisive” action, accusing it of providing “lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and the region”. The claims come as several rocket attacks have been reported on Iraqi bases hosting US troops as well as foreign missions in Baghdad, which has been, along with other Iraqi cities, the scene of street protests over economic woes since October.
Ali Rabiei, the spokesman for the Iranian administration, responded to the threat on Monday, noting that Pompeo had failed to substantiate his allegations with any evidence. He stated that it was only natural for American facilities to come under attack at a time when Iraq is witnessing protests and when the whole country is facing ambiguity caused by US interference.