UPDATE 2: US to deploy extra security forces amid anti-US protests outside its embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 31. Further unrest possible.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert affects Baghdad

This alert began 31 Dec 2019 18:08 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
The US intends to deploy additional security forces to its embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 31, as anti-US protesters remain gathered outside the diplomatic facility. The demonstrations began earlier in the day in response to US airstrikes against Iranian-backed Shi'a militias Dec. 29. Protesters are calling for the closure of the US 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. Protesters have lit minor fires and reportedly damaged surveillance equipment at the embassy perimeter. While numerous local and international media outlets report that US diplomatic staff have been evacuated from the embassy, US officials have said that they have no plans to evacuate its staff.

Heightened security measures are almost certain in the vicinity of the embassy in the coming days. Further demonstrations are possible near the embassy and elsewhere in Baghdad. Additional confrontations are likely if demonstrations persist or if protesters attempt to enter the embassy or other diplomatic or Iraqi government buildings in the International (Green) Zone. Disruptions to ground travel, general diplomatic services, and Iraqi government operations 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 and injuring several US and Iraqi military personnel. 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. The Dec. 29 US airstrikes killed at least 25 Kata'ib Hizballah members and injured more than 50. 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.


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