The U.S. State Department has ordered “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave its embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil.
“The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited,” the department said in statement early Wednesday.
It has also warned citizens about traveling to Iraq.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Sunday tweeted that it was advising “all U.S. citizens of heightened tensions in Iraq and the requirement to remain vigilant.”
“Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict,” the statement said.
That warning also urged U.S. citizens to avoid places known as gathering places for U.S. citizens and to keep a low profile.
Related: Donald Trump and Melania Trump make unannounced visit to Iraq
President Donald Trump, accompanied by National Security Adviser John Bolton, third from left, first lady Melania Trump, fourth from right, US Ambassador to Iraq Doug Silliman, third from right, and senior military leadership, speaks to members of the media at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The move comes after President Donald Trump’s national security adviser announced earlier this month that the U.S. would be sending a carrier strike group to the Middle East to send a “clear and unmistakable message” to Iran.
John Bolton said then that while U.S. wasn’t seeking to go to war with Iran, “we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
NBC News has reported that the decision to surge additional military forces into the Middle East was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces and surrogates that they can now go after American military personnel and assets in the region, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations last week denied that Tehran had given a green light to its proxies to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East, accusing U.S. officials of employing “fake intelligence.”