The White House denied on Monday the reports that it had begun evacuating diplomats from the US Embassy in Baghdad amid mass unrest in Iraq which protesters stormed Iraq’s parliament building and the presidential palace.
The riots and protests erupted after powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his resignation from politics, leading to clashes between his supporters and those of Iran-backed groups, prompting the US to call for calm as violence threatened to further destabilize an already tense situation in Iraq.
Although videos showing diplomats being driven away from the Green Zone – Baghdad’s international zone – were quickly spread across social media, Washington denied it had pulled away any of its staff or diplomats.
The spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council John Kirby called false the reports of an Embassy evacuation, stressing that their highest priority at the moment is ensuring the safety of US government personnel, US citizens, and the security of the facilities
Kirby called the violence in Baghdad disturbing and joined the call by parties across Iraq on both security forces and demonstrators to remain calm and abstain from violence, warning that Monday’s developments could lead to further violence.
Stressing that Iraq’s security, stability, and sovereignty should not be put at risk, Kirby repeated previous comments by US officials and the international community that now is the time for dialogue, not escalated confrontation, urging parties across the Iraqi political spectrum to resolve their political differences through a peaceful process guided by the Iraqi constitution.
As tensions continued to escalate, at least five demonstrators were killed Monday, fifteen others were injured by gunfire and, after confrontations with riot police and the use of tear gas, a dozen more were hurt.
As of Monday, a comprehensive curfew in Baghdad has been announced for all citizens and vehicles.
The political uncertainty and the government deadlock are results of the unwillingness of Al-Sadr’s political party – which has won the largest share of parliamentary seats in the October 2021 primary elections – to negotiate with rival Iran-supported Shiites.