Diplomats evacuated from US consulate in Iraq because of Iranian-backed violence

The U.S government announced on Friday that the U.S. consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra is being temporarily closed amid violence, including a rocket aimed at the consulate, by the Iranian-backed militias.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move is a “temporary relocation” in the wake of “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian regime and its militias.

"I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks."

— Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” Pompeo said in a statement. “I have advised the Government of Iran that the United States will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm to Americans or to our diplomatic facilities in Iraq or elsewhere and whether perpetrated by Iranian forces directly or by associated proxy militias.

“There have been repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias directed at our Consulate General in Basra and our Embassy in Baghdad, including within the past 24 hours,” he added.

Earlier this month, after a Shiite militia vowed revenge for the attack on the Iranian consulate by anti-Iranian protesters, three rockets were fired at Basra's airport, which houses the U.S. consulate. No casualties were recorded.

“We'll hold Iran's regime accountable for any attack on our personnel or facilities, and respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” Pompeo tweeted earlier this week.

The diplomatic staff and their families were evacuated, though it is unclear where they are being sent, while the consular services will be provided from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to the State Department.

The increasing violence and targeting of the U.S. in Iraq is the latest sign of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which is subjected to harsh economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

The Iranian government denied being involved in the incidents in Iraq, according to the state media. Iranian officials instead accused the U.S. of trying to provoke the regime and said the American government played a role in a deadly attack on a military parade in Iran earlier this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.