On May 16, the day after the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller as the next Ambassador to Iraq. State also issued a new Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory for Iraq due to “due to terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.”
We could not recall Mission Iraq ever going on “ordered departure” (mandatory evacuation). On June 15, 2014, the State Department went on partial “temporary relocation” of USG personnel from Embassy Baghdad to Basrah, Erbil and Amman, Jordan (see US Mission Iraq: Now on Partial “Temporary Relocation” To Basra, Erbil & Amman (Jordan). In August 2014, it relocated additional Baghdad/Erbil Staff to Basrah and Amman (Jordan). Note that these “temporary relocations” occurred around the targeted airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists. The State Department went out of its way to avoid the use of the words “authorized departure”, “ordered departure” or for that matter “mandatory evacuation” in describing the movement of its staff that summer. In September 2018, there was a Mandatory Evacuation For US Consulate General Basrah but limited to Southern Iraq.
As recently as March 31, 2019, in the LEAD IG REPORT TO THE U.S. CONGRESS says:
USCENTCOM reported to the DoD OIG that Iranian activity in Iraq has not changed from last quarter.404 Iranian-backed groups continue to monitor Coalition operations, personnel, and facilities, publish false or misleading stories about Coalition activity in the media, and, through allies within the Iraqi Council of Representatives, support legislation to compel the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.405 CJTF-OIR reported that Iran and Iran-backed groups prefer to try to diminish U.S. and Coalition presence in Iraq through soft power means rather than through direct military confrontation.406
404. USCENTCOM, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/26/2019.
405. CJTF-OIR, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/26/2019.
406. USCENTCOM, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/25/2019
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on escalation of tensions with Iran, as U.S. pulls most personnel from Iraq: "I've never seen an administration that is less forthcoming about such critical information than the Trump administration. It's pretty outrageous." https://t.co/4heF5koUNf pic.twitter.com/vOByo6Xtdn
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) May 16, 2019
British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, the No. 2 officer in the U.S.-led coalition, said there was “no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces” to U.S. and other coalition troops in Iraq and Syria.https://t.co/hCpxQ2EFUx
— VoteVets (@votevets) May 15, 2019
To add on to this excellent thread: in 33 years of USG service, I don’t recall an ordered departure before for what appears to be signaling purposes. Threats in Iraq are continuous, but we didn’t draw down in 2014-15. Why now? https://t.co/xUsTrUQckV
— Barbara A. Leaf (@SafiraLeaf) May 16, 2019
Until this morning, however, I am not aware of an "ordered departure" EVER being issued for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or Consulate in Erbil. Even when ISIS was bearing down on Baghdad in 2014, the U.S. did not trigger ordered departure in light of its serious repercussions.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) May 15, 2019
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) May 15, 2019
— Christina Ruffini (@EenaRuffini) May 15, 2019
@StateDept has ordered the departure of non-emergency USG employees from Iraq, both at the Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil. Additional information on this alert can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at U.S. Citizen Services. https://t.co/iX96dAkyhT
— U.S. Embassy Baghdad (@USEmbBaghdad) May 15, 2019