State Department Urges All U.S. Citizens To Leave Iraq As Tensions Rise

The State Department issued a critical level four travel warning to U.S. citizens in Iraq and those planning to travel to the region after the attacks by Iranian backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this week and Thursday’s U.S. targeted air strike of Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Moreover, on Twitter the State Department urged Friday that all “U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately.”

“Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended,” the Tweet stated. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.”

On its website the State Department issued a level four high alert.

State Department Website Warning: 

Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorismkidnapping, and armed conflict

U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.

On December 31, 2019, the Embassy suspended public consular services, until further notice, as a result of damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on the Embassy compound.  U.S. Consulate General Erbil remains open and continues to provide consular services.  On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.  That institution has not reopened.

U.S. citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion). The Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the border. Additionally, fighting on behalf of, or supporting designated terrorist organizations, is a crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines in the United States. 

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Iraq, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page

If you decide to travel to Iraq:
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs if you are unable to return as planned to the United States. Find a suggested list of such documents here.
  • Establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Iraq.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

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