U.S. pulls diplomats from Iraqi city, citing threats from Iran

Haidar Mohammed Ali  AFP  Getty Images FILE

Haidar Mohammed Ali AFP Getty Images FILE

The port city of Basra has been rocked recently by seemingly unrelated violent protests against the Iraqi political establishment, which now has the support of both the United States and Iran but which protesters have contended has failed to provide critical services and improve people's lives.

Earlier this month, three mortar rounds also hit the fortified Green Zone area in Baghdad, home to the USA embassy, without causing injuries and with the perpetrators unclear. Protesters have set fire to several government buildings as well as headquarters of political parties and militias backed by Iran, which saw its consulate in Basra burnt to the ground.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in the announcement late on September 28 that he would hold Iran directly responsible for any attacks on Americans and U.S. diplomatic facilities in the neighboring country.

Earlier this month, protesters set fire to Iran's consulate in Basra and rockets were fired towards Basra International Airport, which houses the US consulate.

It followed recent rocket attacks that Pompeo said were directed at the consulate in Basra.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on September 12 rejected as "provocative and irresponsible" U.S. accusations regarding the unrest in Basra, saying Washington can not cover up its involvement in fomenting tension in Iraq by blaming others.

Later it became known that the USA imposed additional sanctions against Iran and threatened to impose them in relation to European companies that do business with him.

"We are working closely with our partners in the Government and Security Forces of Iraq to address these threats". He, however, called the U-S decision suspicious.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, speaking at a nearby event in NY on Tuesday, warned "there will indeed be hell to pay" if Iran crosses the United States, its allies or harms US citizens.

On Friday, a senior Iran military leader warned the United States against crossing Iran's "red lines".

The Iranian government denied being involved in the incidents in Iraq, according to the state media.

Protesters duck as Iraqi security forces fire tear gas during a demonstration against unemployment and a lack of basic services in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

President Donald Trump's administration has withdrawn from a nuclear deal with Iran, reimposed sanctions and vowed to roll back the Shiite power's role in the region including in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

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