On Friday, September 28, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered all but emergency staff at the US Consulate in Basra to evacuate to Baghdad, citing security concerns over "increasing and specific" threats of attacks on US personnel and facilities from Iran and Iran-backed militias. The consulate will be effectively closed until further notice, with consular services reassigned to the US Embassy in Baghdad; it is unclear when regular US consular activities and services will resume in Basra.
The decision to close the consulate reportedly came hours after rockets landed close to the facility on September 28, resulting in no casualties. Two out of the three rounds fired reportedly hit within the perimeter of Basra International Airport (BSR), located near the consulate.
Basra was the stage of violent protests earlier in the month, which culminated on September 7 when protesters set fire to several government buildings, including the Iranian Consulate, the provincial government building, and the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq group headquarters. While the scale of protests has decreased in recent weeks, demonstrations continue to be held. According to Iraq's Independent High Commission for Human Rights, protests in Basra have left at least a dozen people dead and nearly 100 others wounded since September 1.
Political tensions have increased between the US and Iran amid the unrest in Basra; the US has accused Iranian-affiliated factions of being involved in attacks against US interests in the region and has threatened to take a stronger stance against Iran's presence in Iraq. Further attacks can be expected against US interests in Baghdad and Basra as a response.
Individuals in Iraq, particularly those in Basra, are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings as a precaution due to the risk of violence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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