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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called off a planned visit to Germany and instead made an unannounced trip to Iraq on Tuesday, a day after the Trump administration said Iran posed a growing threat to U.S. forces and interests in the Middle East.

Pompeo spent about four hours on the ground, meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraqi President Barham Salih and other officials, before departing for London.

Prior to landing in Baghdad, Pompeo told reporters he canceled his scheduled stop in Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and flew to Iraq due to indications that “Iran is escalating their activity.”

“I wanted to go to Baghdad to speak with the leadership there, to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq was a sovereign, independent nation,” Pompeo said.

He also said the United States would continue to work with other partners in the region, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf Arab states, that also “want to see a free, independent, sovereign Iraq.”

Iraq\'s President Barham Salih meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Baghdad, Iraq on May 7, 2019.
Iraq\’s President Barham Salih meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Baghdad, Iraq on May 7, 2019. – Reuters

Washington has long sought to counter Iran’s influence in Iraq and has appealed to Arab allies to bolster their engagement with Baghdad.

The Trump administration said on Monday that it had expedited thedeployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and sent an Air Force bomber squadron to the Persian gulf due to intelligence reports indicating U.S. forces were at a heightened risk from Iran and its proxies.

The U.S. secretary of state said his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Maas, was “most gracious” about his change in plans and “understood completely.”

Pompeo also said he expected to discuss business deals with Iraq that would allow the country to reduce its dependence on electricity from neighboring Iran.

The State Department kept the trip to Iraq secret in advance and did not allow journalists traveling with Pompeo to report on his visit until they had departed Baghdad…Continue Reading

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