Security: UPDATE 1: Anti-US protests continue in International Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, afternoon Dec. 31. Further unrest possible in the coming days.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert affects Baghdad

This alert began 31 Dec 2019 11:17 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 Dec 2019 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Protest
  • Location: Baghdad (map)
  • Date: Dec. 31
  • Impact: Heightened security; likely localized transport and embassy operation disruptions; possible further clashes

Summary
Anti-US protesters remain gathered outside of the US Embassy in Baghdad the afternoon Dec. 31. The demonstrations began earlier in the day in response to US airstrikes against Iran-backed militia. Protesters are calling for the closure of the embassy. Local security forces have reportedly fired tear gas to disperse and prevent protesters from entering the embassy complex. There have been no casualties reported. Minor fires have been lit and some surveillance equipment has reportedly been damaged at the embassy perimeter. Local and international media sources, citing unnamed Iraqi government officials who suggest a drawdown in US diplomatic personnel from the site, have not been substantiated. The US government has as yet not commented on the developments.

Heightened security is almost certain in the vicinity of the embassy through Dec. 31, and possibly in the coming days. Further demonstrations are possible near the embassy and elsewhere in Baghdad. Further confrontations are likely should demonstrations persist or if protesters attempt to enter the embassy or other diplomatic or Iraqi government buildings in the International (Green) Zone. Ground travel and general diplomatic and Iraqi government operation disruptions are likely in the area for the duration of the protests.

Background and Analysis
Over a dozen rockets landed inside the K-1 Airbase in Kirkuk Dec. 27, killing one US civilian contractor. The US blamed the attack on pro-Iran militia and conducted retaliatory airstrikes on several Kata'ib Hizballah military bases in Iraq and Syria Dec. 29. Kata'ib Hizballah is an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group that receives financial and military support from Iran. In 2009, the US designated the group as a terrorist organization. At least 25 Kata'ib Hizballah members died, and more than 50 were injured in the Dec. 29 US airstrikes. Kata'ib Hizballah supporters may continue to lead anti-US protests in the coming days.

Advice
Avoid all protests. Plan for localized ground travel disruptions surrounding the protest site. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Plan for delays to diplomatic services and Iraqi government operations in the International Zone through at least Dec. 31. Reconfirm business appointments.

Resources
US Embassies and Consulates in Iraq: iq.usembassy.gov

Related Advice: Tips for reducing your vulnerability in the event of civil unrest.