USA secretary of state pays unscheduled visit to Iraq

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi

In a statement issued by the department, State Secretary Mike Pompeo accused Iran of engaging in "an escalating of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks".

Pompeo arrived in Baghdad after he abruptly cancelled his visit to Germany on Tuesday.

He refused to give further details, but U.S. media reports say Iran has likely moved short-range ballistic missiles to ships in the Persian Gulf that could target United States troops and those of USA allies.

While in Iraq, Pompeo met separately with President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Pompeo's trip follows the expedited deployment by the United States of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln's strike group and B-52 bombers to the Middle East. The top USA diplomat's unannounced visit marked an effort to stand up Washington's ties with Baghdad as it pushes ahead with its "maximum pressure" against Tehran a U.S. arch-rival, but an ally of Iraq.

The "campaign to continue to prevent ISIS terror inside of Iraq itself is something that's very central.to the Iraqi government", Pompeo said.

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According to a source with knowledge of the matter, Pumpo and Saleh highlighted the issue of extending Iraq's exemptions from USA sanctions against Iran and not creating tension with Iran.

"We've made clear that if the risk exceeds the threshold for the United States, we simply won't be able to share that information any longer", he said last month. More than 5,000 USA troops are stationed on Iraqi soil.

Wednesday marks a year since the Trump administration pulled the USA out of the nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers. Their presence angers the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that is dominated by pro-Iran factions which played a key role alongside government forces in the fight against IS. That 2015 deal provides relief from economic sanctions in return for limits on Iran's nuclear program.

Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, whose foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, had also been set to meet Pompeo in Nuuk. "Iraq really is taking the responsibility to avoid any attack on any of our friends here, coalition forces or any of our friends here", he told reporters. "This is an obligation that Iraq honours", he said. Pompeo had been travelling from Finland, where he had attended a meeting of the Arctic Council, to Germany, where he was due to meet both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas later Tuesday.

A senior diplomat in Greenland, Kenneth Hoegh, earlier told AFP that Pompeo's visit was being postponed.

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