UK FCO issues travel advisory urging nationals to avoid all travel to Iran amid US-Iran tensions as of Jan. 10.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 10 Jan 2020 11:39 GMT and is scheduled to expire 20 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Travel advisories
  • Locations: Iran, Iraq (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Increased security measures; possible retaliatory attacks, additional violence; localized transport and business disruptions

Summary
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advisory for Iran Jan. 10 and now advises British citizens against all travel to Iran. The FCO also advises against all air travel to, from, and within Iran due to "the body of evidence" that Ukraine International Airlines (PS) Flight 752 may have been shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile Jan. 8. Other governments may issue similar advisories and directives for their nationals in the coming days.

The updated FCO advisory follows several other western nations updating their advisories concerning travel by their citizens to Iraq and Iran following heightened regional tensions following the Jan. 3 killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and several Iraqi Shi'a militia leaders in a US airstrike in Baghdad. On Jan. 7, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged French citizens to avoid travel to Iraq and Iran. At the same time, the government of Australia began advising its nationals to reconsider travel to Iran due to the volatile security situation in that country; on Jan. 5, Canberra encouraged Australians not to travel to Iraq, urging its citizens already in the country to leave if it is safe to do so.

The US Department of State has advised its citizens to leave Iraq immediately and has suspended consular services at its embassy in Baghdad. Similarly, the FCO advised against all travel to Iraq, except for the Kurdistan Region, where it advises against all but essential travel.

Iraqi authorities will likely maintain a heightened security presence in Baghdad and throughout the southern and central areas of Iraq amid concerns over retaliatory attacks by pro-Iranian elements in the country, including followers and supporters of Shi'a militias. Rocket and mortar attacks against Iraqi military bases housing US troops have increased nationwide in the wake of Soleimani's killing, including the Jan. 8 Iranian-launched ballistic missile strikes against US forces stationed in airbases in Iraq's Al Anbar and Erbil provinces. Several rockets have also impacted in Baghdad's International (Green) Zone. Iraqi Shi'a militias have also warned the country's security forces to avoid Iraqi bases housing US troops; Iran could also target other US facilities and installations. Similar attacks on the assets of allied Western nations cannot be ruled out.

Supporters of Shi'a militia groups could also hold nationwide rallies and demonstrations outside US military installations, diplomatic missions, and commercial buildings with ties to US companies, resulting in transport and business disruptions. Violence between security forces and demonstrators cannot be ruled out.

Background and Analysis
Western governments have regularly issued travel advisories requesting that their nationals reconsider travel to Iran. These advisories are generally prompted by US-Iran tensions or the arrest and imprisonment of foreign visitors to Iran, particularly Westerners of Iranian origin.

Iranian security forces regularly detain and arrest foreigners of Iranian origin on security and espionage charges. Foreign travelers to Iran, particularly Western visitors, continue to face questioning, detention, and imprisonment, especially if they have any ties to military or government agencies. Iranian security officials have always been suspicious of Western travelers and Iranians who travel between their adopted countries and Iran. In light of the recent tensions with the US and its allies, Iran is likely to intensify scrutiny of foreigners and dual citizens visiting the country. The threat of arbitrary detention and imprisonment of foreign nationals will likely persist in Iran for the foreseeable future.

Advice
Maintain contact with your country's diplomatic mission if operating in Iran or Iraq. Plan accordingly for delays to diplomatic services and Iraqi government operations across the country in the coming days. Avoid all gatherings and rallies. If incoming artillery fire is reported in the general vicinity, stay indoors, away from windows and exterior walls, and, if possible, move to a ground floor or basement.

Resources
US Embassy in Iraq: iq.usembassy.gov
British Embassy in Baghdad: www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-baghdad
British Consulate General in Arbil (Erbil): www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-consulate-general-erbil
French Embassy in Iraq: iq.ambafrance.org

Related Advice: General guidelines to protect yourself against terrorism.

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