Rocket lands near U.S. Embassy inside Baghdad’s Green Zone

U.S. Navy the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge sails in front of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. Commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf risk

Rocket lands near U.S. Embassy inside Baghdad’s Green Zone

A spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command, which operates assets in the region, confirmed a large explosion that some reports identified as a Katyusha rocket having struck just outside of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, known as the International Zone.

Late a year ago, several rockets fell harmlessly near the American embassy in Baghdad and the American consulate in Basra during a halting and acrimonious government formation process in which the United States tried to thwart Iraqi militia members from shaping the nation's cabinet following elections in which they gained the second most seats in parliament.

During his visit, he met with Iraq's prime minister and president and discussed weaning Iraq off of Iran's natural resources and keeping US personnel safe in the country.

Tensions between the US and Iran have risen in recent weeks amid a USA pressure campaign on Iran to come back to the negotiating table on its nuclear program.

The Green Zone was regularly targeted by mortars during the US occupation of Iraq that ended in 2011.

As tensions escalate between the USA and Iran, there have been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle, just as it is on the path to recovery.

Shiite militias with deep ties to Tehran have gained unprecedented political and military power over the last three years and have repeatedly used rocket launches toward American diplomatic missions to express their displeasure with US policies.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran intensified early this month as US President Donald Trump's administration stepped up sanctions pressure by ending waivers for some countries to purchase Iranian oil - part of efforts to roll back the Islamic Republic's expanding regional clout. A USA -led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces regrouped and drove IS out in a costly three-year campaign.

Concerns about a possible conflict have flared since the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran that has seen America order nonessential diplomatic staff out of Iraq. An attack targeting USA interests in Iraq would be detrimental to the country's recent efforts at recovering and reclaiming its status in the Arab world. Asked if the USA might be on a path to war with the Iranians, the president answered, "I hope not".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's surprise visit to Baghdad this month came after USA intelligence showed Iran-backed Shi'ite militias positioning rockets near bases housing USA forces, according to two Iraqi security sources. The three officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the private meetings in Baghdad and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Pompeo was not contemplating any pre-emptive strikes on Iran or the use of Iraqi territory to stage military operations against Iran.

Earlier this month, Pompeo made a surprise trip to Baghdad to rally Iraq's leaders to the US side. "Iraqi forces are anxious that American forces could be targeted by factions loyal to Iran", said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. On Tuesday, Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels said they launched seven drones to target Saudi Arabia. -Iranian tensions continued to rise, the State Department ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country. "Iraqi people are fed up with war", said Rubaei inside his cosmetics shop in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood.

Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, the head of Iraq's state-owned South Oil Company, which owns the oil field, said the evacuation was a "precautionary and temporary measure".

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