US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Tuesday made an unannounced visit to Iraq hours after abruptly cancelling a scheduled trip to Germany due to "pressing issues." Amid escalating tensions with Iran, Pompeo arrived in Baghdad and met Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, President Barham Salih and other senior officials in his four-hour visit to the country, CNN reported.
Linking his brief visit to "press US' concerns on Iran" to the Iraqi government, Pompeo said that his meetings were "productive" and said that he deliberated officials on "about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it's able to adequately protect Americans in their country." "They both provided assurances that they understood that was their responsibility," he said.
Pompeo remarked that Washington "wanted to let them know about the increased threat stream that we had seen and give them a little bit more background on that so they could ensure that they were doing all they could to provide protection for our team." "They understood too it's important for their country. We don't want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq and there was complete agreement," the top US diplomat said while making a veiled reference to Iran.
Pompeo said that Iraq has promised to guarantee the safety of US interests from Iran. He further said that he discussed with officials on how to eliminate the remaining ISIS pockets in Iraq and foreign terrorist fighters being held in detention camps.
Pompeo's visit comes days after the US had announced that it was sending USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, Air Force bomber task force and B-52 bombers to the Middle East in response to Iran's "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings." It also comes hours after Iran said it would announce on Wednesday on reducing its commitments to the nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015. This comes on the first anniversary of the US' withdrawal from the agreement.
(With inputs from agencies.)