Security: UPDATE 3: Anti-US protests persist near the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 1. Avoid all demonstrations.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Baghdad
  • Kirkuk
  • Mosul
  • Karbala
  • Najaf
  • Basra
  • Balad

This alert began 01 Jan 2020 10:00 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
Anti-US protests are ongoing at the US embassy compound in Baghdad's International (Green) Zone Jan. 1. Security forces at the site reportedly fired tear gas at the crowd during the early morning after protesters set fires. Some demonstrators were reportedly injured during the confrontation. Demonstrators have announced an indefinite sit-in until US military forces leave the country.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Iraqi security forces have bolstered security at entrances to the International Zone to prevent further people from joining the sit-in. Additional US military personnel were reportedly deployed to the embassy overnight Dec. 31-Jan. 1. The US Embassy in Baghdad issued a Security Alert Dec. 31 advising US nationals not to approach the embassy. 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 staff. Ambassador Matthew Tueller was reportedly on leave but is due to return to the embassy.

Protests are likely to persist in the coming days, including at the embassy compound. Demonstrations are also possible elsewhere in the city and country near US military or diplomatic facilities. Demonstrations in the northern Kurdistan region are less likely. Gatherings are possible Jan. 3 as Fridays are popular protest periods. Heightened security is almost certain near gatherings. Clashes are likely should demonstrators attempt to enter secure compounds or complexes. Ground travel, commercial and diplomatic operation disruptions are likely near all protest sites.

Background and Analysis
Anti-US protests at the embassy Dec. 31 mark another escalation in US Iran tensions in the region. US President Donald J Trump has accused Iran of having planned the unrest. Iran has denied the accusation. Further violence and unrest is possible should the tit-for-tat attacks continue to occur in the country and in neighboring Syria.

The demonstrations are in response to US airstrikes against Kata'ib Hizballah military bases in Iraq and Syria Dec. 29, which left 25 Kata'ib members dead and more than 50 others injured. The strikes followed rocket launches into the K-1 Airbase in Kirkuk Dec. 27, which killed one US civilian contractor and injured several US and Iraqi military personnel.

Advice
Avoid all protests. Do not attempt to drive through areas where protesters are blocking roads. Allow additional driving time if operating near protest venues and affected areas. Seek updated information from trusted local sources on road conditions before traveling in the area. Leave the area immediately and seek shelter in a secure location away from schools or government buildings if violence erupts nearby. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Plan for delays to diplomatic services and Iraqi government operations in the International Zone through at least Jan. 1. Reconfirm business appointments.

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

Related Advice: Information on the Health Effects of Riot Control Agents
Related Advice: Tips for reducing your vulnerability in the event of civil unrest.


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