The U.S. ordered all its nonemergency staff to leave Iraq immediately, amid heightened tensions with Iran over recent attacks against oil tankers and facilities in the Persian Gulf region.
The decision comes amid fears that Iran-allied militia in Iraq could target U.S. citizens and soldiers in the country.
Normal visa services will be temporarily suspended both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, according to a brief statement posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq, it noted.
The order comes after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday advised all U.S. citizens to remain vigilant due to heightened tensions in Iraq.
The U.S., citing unspecified intelligence about increased Iranian threats last week, began a series of military deployments in the region that have included an aircraft carrier, a bomber task force and other ships and personnel.
Tensions in the region have sharply risen this week after a U.S. claim that Iran was behind attacks on four oil tankers near a strategic Persian Gulf waterway over the weekend. Tehran on Tuesday denied it was behind the attacks and said Washington and its Middle East allies were attempting to frame the country.
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