The anti-Iranian Shi'a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, has called on all Iraqis to stage protests nationwide on Friday, May 24, to denounce Iraq's involvement in the US-Iran conflict. Protesters are expected to gather at 21:00 (local time) in all provinces, although the holy city of Najaf has been excluded.
A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be anticipated near demonstration sites. Associated clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On May 15, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a security alert advising the departure of all of its non-emergency personnel present at the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in Erbil, due to heightened regional tensions, notably with Iran, and advised its citizens against traveling to Iraq. Both security alerts come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Baghdad on May 7 where he said intelligence indicates that Iran is threatening US interests in the Middle East.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings as a precaution, 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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