US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made an unscheduled, fleeting visit to Iraq, amid growing tensions with Iran.
Pompeo cancelled a trip to Berlin to meet with Iraqi leaders during a four-hour stop in the capital Baghdad.
The visit came days after a US aircraft carrier was deployed to the region, which officials said was in response to threats to US forces and its allies from Iran.
On Tuesday it was revealed the US was sending B-52 bombers to the region.
The US has given little information about the exact nature of the reported threat, which Iran has dismissed as nonsense.
John Bolton, the US national security adviser, said only that the US was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” on announcing the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Sunday.
The US has released very few details about Pompeo’s short trip to Baghdad. However, it is known that he met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he also directly linked the visit to the recent escalation with Iran, which neighbours Iraq.
Pompeo said that he wanted to “speak with the leadership there [in Iraq], to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation”.
He also said that he wanted to help them become less dependent on energy deals with Iran.
Acting Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement that the US does “not seek war with the Iranian regime, but we will defend US personnel, our allies and our interests in the region”.
“The deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are considered a prudent step in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests,” he added.
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