Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip because of developments in Iraq

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo postponed a planned trip to Ukraine to deal with the ongoing developments out of Baghdad, the State Department announced.

“Secretary Pompeo must postpone his visit to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “Secretary Pompeo’s trip will be rescheduled in the near future and he looks forward to the visit at that time.”

Protests at US Embassy in Baghdad
A handout photo made available by MAXAR Technologies shows members of Iraqi Shiite ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’ armed group and their supporters gathering at the eastern entrance of the US Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, 01 January 2020. EPA-EFE/SATELLITE IMAGE ©2019 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES

Following a second day of protests, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday that “the situation around Embassy Baghdad has improved,” but that efforts by Iraqi government security forces “to clear militia members from the area immediately surrounding the embassy continue.”

“As of Wednesday evening, most individuals have left the immediate area,” the spokesperson said. “Though the situation around the Embassy perimeter has calmed significantly, post-security posture remains heightened.”

Iraqi security forces regained control of the area around the US Embassy on Wednesday after paramilitary groups asked their supporters to “withdraw.”

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad in response to US airstrikes on Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, in Syria and Iraq. Administration officials and lawmakers blamed Iran for instigating the protests, in which demonstrators scaled the walls and forced the gates of the American compound. The embassy was placed under lockdown but was not evacuated, an embassy official said, and a State Department spokesperson insisted that “there has been no breach.”

Read more via CNN/New York Times

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