BAGHDAD, IRAQ — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Tuesday evening in Baghdad, Iraq, amid what he said were “very specific” and “imminent” threats against U.S. troops in the region.
“These were very specific, these were attacks that were imminent, that is, they were attacks that were going to happen fairly soon, we heard about them, we’ve taken every action we can to deter them,” Pompeo told reporters from Breitbart News and other outlets traveling with him.
Pompeo was previously scheduled to head to Berlin from Finland, where he attended the 2019 Arctic Ministerial Council. However, the trip to Berlin was canceled to make the last-minute trip to Baghdad.
The visit comes just days after National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the U.S. was sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, citing “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”
“My visit and the actions taken by the Department of Defense — the message that we’ve sent to the Iranians I hope put us in position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests,” Pompeo said.
“The United States is going to defend its interests wherever we are, and always, and always make sure we have enough force structure that can achieve that end,” he added.
U.S. officials have been tight-lipped on what Iranian activity they are seeing.
Several U.S. officials told CNN on Tuesday there was intelligence showing Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf. The New York Times reported Monday that “new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq” were behind the deployments.
Breitbart News asked Pompeo if U.S. troops in Iraq were facing threats from Iran. He responded:
As Secretary of State, I have the responsibility to keep the officers that work for me safe each and every day all around the world. That includes in Erbil and Baghdad, in our facilities in Oman. All around the Middle East, and so, anytime we receive threat reporting, things that raise concerns, we do everything we can both to do all that we can to make sure those plans or contemplated attacks don’t take place and to make sure we’ve got the right security posture. The American people should know that we’ve done that.
Pompeo spent about four hours in Baghdad, meeting with the Iraqi president and vice president, and other officials.
Before landing in Iraq, he told reporters that he wanted to assure Iraqi leaders that the U.S. “stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”
He said the “primary mission set” was to discuss Iraqi independence from Iranian energy.
“The United States will continue to help [Iraq] build partners in the region — the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Emiratis — all of the Gulf states want to see a free, independent, sovereign Iraq,” he said.
“Also lots of business deals pending. I’ll have an opportunity to talk about some of those,” he added. “These deals are important to Iraq — big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy,” he said.
Some critics have blamed the escalated Iranian activity on a U.S. move last month to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
Pompeo rebuffed that assertion. “I have seldom seen speaking the truth increase risk. This was just calling out the truth, this is a terrorist organization. It’s killed over 600 American soldiers, continues to wreak havoc throughout the Middle East, it is an enormously destabilizing force.
“It is the IRGC that is the lead element supporting in what is taking place in Gaza Strip today, underwriting Hamas — it’s the same set of resources coming out of Tehran. We simply spoke the truth as it relates to the designation,” he added.