Tensions in the Middle East have forced the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs to issue a stern travel directive to American citizens.
Per its official Twitter account for travel alerts, the department tweeted, “Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately.”
The notice also declared embassy operations were suspended and warned Americans to stay away. “Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended,” the tweet said. “U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.”
#Iraq: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy. pic.twitter.com/rdRce3Qr4a
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 3, 2020
The already tense standoff between American forces and pro-Iranian activists escalated after a recent U.S. airstrike targeted and killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.
Iran responded to Soleimani’s death by promising revenge.
All friends—& enemies—know that Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation & definite victory awaits the fighters on this blessed path. The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals./4
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 3, 2020
“The loss of our dear General is bitter,” tweeted Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. “The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals.”
According to former acting and deputy CIA director Michael Morell’s statements to CBS News, the killing of Soleimani will also enable hardliners in Iran, where Soleimani is extremely popular, a successor may already be in place.
Morell affirmed that Soleimani was abad actor, but that action taken against him was risky:
Soleimani was an evil genius, he had a lot of American blood on his hands. The world is a better place without him. The problem is that comes at a very high cost. Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this. Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani. Once the kill was confirmed, Trump posted an image of the American Flag on social media without any other comment.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
At the time of writing, that tweet has over 637,000 “likes” on Twitter and 1.2 million “likes” on Instagram.