BREAKING: State Department Orders All Non-Emergency Personnel to Leave Iraq

The State Department announced on Wednesday morning that they have ordered all non-emergency United States employees to leave Iraq as tensions continue to escalate in the country.

“The evacuation order applies to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil,” the Washington Examiner reports.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad posted the evacuation order on its Twitter which read, “@StateDept has ordered the departure of non-emergency USG employees from Iraq, both at the Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil. Additional information on this alert can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at U.S. Citizen Services.”

The Washington Examiner reports:

The evacuation order comes three days after U.S. Embassy Baghdad issued a warning to all U.S. citizens to remain vigilant after heightened tensions in the country. It also comes after the U.S. government said they had evidence Iran and its proxy forces in the region were going to target Americans, according to the AP.

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who is in charge of U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. does not want to fight Iran but will defend itself and its allies.

The Marine Corps General said the State Department’s decision “sends a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on U.S. interests will be met with unrelenting force.”

Speaking to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference in Washington, D.C., McKenzie added: “If a fight is to be had, we will be fully prepared to respond and defend our interests. And it won’t be a fair fight.”

The Associated Press adds:

Underscoring what the U.S. says is heightened risk to U.S. personnel, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave Iraq immediately.

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Still, the general’s remarks exposed international skepticism over the American military buildup in the Middle East, a legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was predicated on false intelligence. U.S. officials have not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat amid other signs of allied unease.

As tensions in the region started to surge, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his nation was worried about the risk of accidental conflict “with an escalation that is unintended really on either side.” Then on Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates from the U.S.-led combat fleet heading toward the Strait of Hormuz. That was followed by the unusual public challenge to the Trump administration by the general.

“No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Ghika, speaking in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition monitors the presence of Iranian-backed forces “along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in.”