Security: UPDATE 4: US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, suspends all consular operations until further notice as of Jan. 1 following attack against facility.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 01 Jan 2020 17:54 GMT and is scheduled to expire 05 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Anti-US protests
  • 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
The US Embassy in Baghdad issued a security alert Jan. 1 stating that all consular operations will be suspended until further notice. The US General Consulate in Erbil remains open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments. The security alert comes after Shi'a militias attempted to break into the US diplomatic facility, Dec. 31. The anti-US protests, organized by the militias and which began Dec. 1, have reportedly dissipated following intervention by Iraqi security forces. According to several reports, the Iraqi military has secured the outer perimeter of the US Embassy and dismantled tents that were erected by the protesters. However, US Embassy has advised US citizens not to approach the embassy until the situation stabilizes.

US government bolstered security at the embassy by deploying additional security forces, Dec. 31-Jan. 1. 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.

Iraqi security forces remain deployed at entrances to the International Zone to prevent people from joining demonstrations. Additional protests cannot be ruled out in the coming days, including at the embassy compound. Demonstrations are also possible elsewhere in the city and country near US military bases or diplomatic facilities. 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. Security forces employed tear gas at the crowd on Dec. 31 and during the early hours of Jan. 1 after protesters set fires. Some demonstrators were reportedly injured during the confrontation. 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 demonstration. Iran has denied the accusation. Further violence is possible should the tit-for-tat attacks continue to occur in Iraq and in neighboring Syria.

The demonstrations are in response to US airstrikes against Kata'ib Hizballah (KH) military bases in Iraq and Syria Dec. 29, which left 25 members of the group dead and more than 50 others injured. KH is a pro-Iranian Shi'a militia group and has pledged to avenge that deaths of its fighters. 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 in the coming days. Reconfirm business appointments.

Resources
US Embassy 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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