Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unexpected visit to Baghdad on Tuesday, meeting Iraq’s prime minister and other top officials to discuss the safety of Americans in Iraq and explain U.S. security concerns amid rising Iranian activity, Reuters writes.
The visit came two days after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was deploying the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force to the region because of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.”
Washington has ramped up sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program in recent months and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
“We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
The Iraqi Prime Minister said the Washington was an important strategic partner for Iraq, but stressed that Baghdad was continuing to seek a balanced relationship with all of its “friends and neighbors, including neighboring Iran.”
Pompeo said the purpose of the meeting was to also let Iraqi officials know more about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively protect U.S. forces.
Pompeo said he expressed U.S. support for Iraqi sovereignty, noting: “We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq.”
Asked about the decision to move the aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the region, Pompeo said Washington wanted to defend its interests from the Iranian threat and ensure it had the forces necessary to accomplish that goal, Reuters adds.
“The message that we’ve sent to the Iranians, I hope, puts us in a position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests,” Pompeo said, noting that the U.S. intelligence was “very specific” about “attacks that were imminent.”