Mike Pompeo Makes Secret Iraq Trip on US Security Concerns Over Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi Credit Reuters

The top diplomat of the United States has made an unannounced visit to Iraq, underlining Washington's efforts to stand up its ties with Baghdad as it pushes ahead with its "maximum pressure" against Tehran - a U.S. arch-foe, but an ally of neighbouring Iraq.

He cancelled a trip to Germany to make the Iraq visit, which will reaffirm the United States presence in the face of Iranian threats.

Responding to a question about whether Iraq could protect USA interests from attacks by Iran and its proxy forces, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Tuesday that Iraq takes its responsibilities seriously.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a lightning visit to Baghdad on Tuesday to show US support for the Iraqi government as Washington steps up warnings to Iran against any action hostile to American interests in the Middle East.

"What we've been trying to do is to get Iran to behave like a normal nation", Pompeo told reporters in Finland Monday.

"The central messages are this: We want to make sure that Iraq is positioned so that the relationship that we've built with them and that our allies in the region have built with them - allies that range all across the Gulf, who understand that the primary threat in the Middle East is Iran - remains strong, that those relationships remain strong", he said.

Pompeo would not be specific about the more recent threat information involving Iran except that they involved "imminent" plans for attacks. Last month, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would no longer exempt any countries from USA sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil.

The US Secretary of State commented on Washington's stance to move a bomber task force to the region.

Late Sunday the administration announced that it is deploying a USA aircraft carrier and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf region.

Late Sunday, the US announced that it is rushing an aircraft carrier group to the Middle East to deter or respond to any Iranian attack.

Iraq's majority population enjoys religious kinship with Iran, which played a significant role in helping Baghdad to fight the Islamic State extremist movement. More than 5,000 USA troops are stationed on Iraqi soil.

"We're working together to push back against that threat", Pompeo said at a press conference with Hunt.

"Iraq really is taking the responsibility to avoid any attack on any of our friends here, coalition forces or any of our friends here", he told reporters.

He said the top diplomat would also warn that the U.S. might be forced to reduce its presence in the United Kingdom if the Chinese firm had access to critical data.

Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal a year ago but Hunt said on Wednesday the agreement remained an important achievement and urged Tehran to think long and hard before breaking it. "This is an obligation that Iraq honours", he said.

Mr Pompeo had been due to head to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister.

Washington and Tehran have been at loggerheads since the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and instead vowed "maximum pressure" against Tehran - with Baghdad repeatedly caught in the middle.

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