The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory, elevating it to level four, the highest category, cautioning U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq due to recent attacks on American military personnel and civilians in the region.
The advisory firmly states, “Travel to Iraq is strongly discouraged owing to the prevalent threats of terrorism, abductions, armed conflicts, civil disturbances, and the limited capability of the U.S. Mission Iraq to provide assistance to American citizens.”
A surge in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria has occurred since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Notably, a U.S. warship successfully intercepted over a dozen drones and four cruise missiles launched by Iranian-backed Houthi forces from Yemen last week.
The travel advisory comes following the ordered evacuation of eligible family members and non-essential U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil. The State Department justified this move as a response to heightened security threats against U.S. personnel and interests.
Given the escalating regional tensions amidst the Israel-Hamas war, the United States remains vigilant against activities conducted by Iran-backed groups. The conflict, which initiated when the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, leading to the loss of over 1,400 lives, has put Washington on high alert.
Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, have resulted in a significant number of casualties, with Palestinian officials reporting over 4,700 fatalities.
To address security concerns, U.S. government personnel in Baghdad have been instructed to refrain from using Baghdad International Airport.
The United States has recently deployed substantial naval forces to the Middle East, including two aircraft carriers, their support vessels, and approximately 2,000 Marines. Furthermore, the Pentagon announced the dispatch of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions to the Middle East.