US withdrawing Baghdad staff ahead of Soleimani anniversary

The US is temporarily withdrawing some staff from its embassy in Baghdad ahead of the anniversary of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s killing, according to reports.

News of the move, first reported by the Washington Post, comes with just one month until the one year anniversary of his death. Officials were concerned about the potential for retaliation aimed at Americans in the region.

The State Department confirmed the decision, saying that US Ambassador Matthew Tueller would remain in Iraq and that the embassy itself would continue to operate.

In a statement, a department official referred to the move as routine, saying, “The State Department continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays.”

The decision to withdraw some of the staffers, according to CNN, was made at a Tuesday meeting of the National Security Council’s Policy Coordination Committee.

Soleimani, who was commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, was killed in January as part of a missile attack, ordered by President Trump, at Baghdad Airport in Iraq.

His death came amid rising tensions over nuclear weapons between the two countries, after supporters of Iranian militias attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad.

Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani
Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani
Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump has stood by his decision to take out Soleimani, arguing that the Iranian military leader was planning an “imminent” attack against the US by blowing up four different embassies.

His killing, the commander-in-chief argued, thwarted those attacks.

Iran vowed revenge for the killing for months afterward, though little action appeared to be taken. With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, fighting between the two nations was forced to pause.

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