On Friday, January 3, the US Embassy in Baghdad advised US citizens present in Iraq to leave the country due to the ongoing escalation of tensions. The Embassy advises to depart immediately, for fear of fallout, via airline while still possible or by land to other countries. The announcement follows the death of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport (BGW) earlier the same day.
Tensions will likely escalate in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, in the near term. Heightened security measures are anticipated throughout the capital, including at BGW, over the coming hours. Retaliatory attacks targeting US personnel and assets are also possible.
The US Department of Defense released a statement on January 3, claiming responsibility for an airstrike targeting Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iran's Quds Force, near Baghdad International Airport (BGW) during the early morning hours of Friday. According to the statement, Soleimani was "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region." Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), was also killed in the strike along with six other individuals. The situation remains fluid and details are still emerging.
Individuals in Baghdad, and Iraq more generally, are advised to closely monitor developments, avoid the affected area, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.