The US and its allies in Iraq are bracing for attacks as a hidden threat from Iran looms

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The US and its allies in Iraq are bracing for attacks as a hidden threat from Iran looms

The US Department of State sent out a notice Wednesday ordering all non-emergency US government employees to leave Iraq immediately.

Without giving a reason for the partial evacuation, the notice said that employees should “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible” and “avoid US facilities within Iraq.” US employees are being pulled out of both the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in Erbil.

State provided some additional clarity after the release of the notice, explaining that “given the increased threat stream we are seeing in Iraq … the secretary has decided to place Mission Iraq on ordered departure,” CNN reported.

“These actions are not the prelude to a U.S. attack against Iran,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, tweeted. “There is clear & persistent evidence,supported by observable movements on the ground,that Iran’s proxy forces in Iraq and Yemen plan to attack Americans with the intent of inflicting mass casualties.”

“Right now Americans serving us in Iraq are facing a serious & imminent threat,” he added.

Other lawmakers suggested they are in the dark on this situation. “The Trump administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do with Iraq and Iran,” Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, reportedly said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday.

The Dutch government announced Wednesday that it was suspending a key mission in Iraq due to an unspecified security threat. Germany has decided to suspend military training operations in Iraq in response to a marked increase in regional tensions.

In September, the Trump administration made the decision to pull US government employees out of the US Consulate in Basra, in southern Iraq, after a rocket attack by Shiite militias linked to Iran. The attack did not cause any injuries.

The State Department’s latest order comes amid increasing tensions between the US and Iran, which have been on the rise since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Last week, the US accused Iran of plotting attacks on US interests in the region.

Read more: The US is sending a ton of firepower to take on Iran — here’s everything headed its way

To respond to this threat — details of which have yet to be presented — the US military deployed an aircraft carrier and accompanying strike group, a bomber task force, and other assets to the US Central Command area of responsibility. Bombers have already begun flying deterrence patrols.

The US has warned Iran, which denies the allegations against it, that any attack on US forces or interests will be met with “unrelenting force.” Trump personally has warned that Iran will “suffer greatly” if it targets the US with any act of aggression.

Read more: Trump says he’d send ‘a hell of a lot more’ than 120,000 troops to fight Iran if it came to that

While some observers have suggested the US is marching toward war with Iran, others have stressed that this is not the case. Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute and a former member of the National Security Council, argues that the “risk of inadvertent conflict and escalation is real.”

“This is [especially] the case given the likely poor understanding each side has of the other’s intent and red lines, and the poor communications not just between the US and Iran, but between the US and our allies,” he added.

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