Pompeo makes surprise Baghdad visit, warns of Iranian activity

Published: May 08, 2019 12:00:00 | Updated: May 10, 2019 11:05:04

Iraq's President Barham Salih (right) meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Baghdad, Iraq on May 7, 2019. The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Handout via Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday and met with Iraq’s prime minister and other top officials to discuss the safety of Americans in Iraq and explain US security concerns amid rising Iranian activity.

The visit came two days after US 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.”

The concern about a threat from Iranian forces comes after Washington has ramped up sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme in recent months and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, according to a Reuters report.

“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 with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

An Iraqi government source confirmed the meeting with Abdul Mahdi but did not elaborate on the details.

Pompeo said the purpose of the meeting also was to let Iraqi officials know more about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively protect US forces.

Pompeo said he expressed US support for Iraqi sovereignty, noting, “We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq.”

Asked before the meetings if there was a threat to the Baghdad government from Iran that raised US concerns about Iraqi sovereignty, Pompeo said, “No, no, generally this has been our position since the national security strategy came out in the beginning of the Trump administration.”

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.

Pompeo also said spoke to Iraqi officials about their energy and infrastructure needs, especially in the electricity, oil and natural gas sectors. He said they discussed ways to quickly move forward with projects that could help improve Iraqi lives.


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