US bans lawmakers from visiting Syria, Iraq

US bans lawmakers from visiting Syria, Iraq as Iran tensions mount
2 min read
01 January, 2020
Tensions are mounting between Washington and Tehran following a series of US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
Esper signed the Pentagon order last month [Getty]
The Pentagon has barred American lawmakers from visiting Syria and Iraq, following heightened tensions between Iran and the US in the two countries.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo on 16 December barring government and congressional officials from visiting Iraq and Syria - where Washington and Tehran both have a military presence - during the holiday period, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.
 
Senior level official visits to the two countries are prohibited until 15 January according to the report, which was confirmed by House Armed Services Committee spokesperson Monica Matoush.

The move comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, that have threatening to spill out into war.

The US on Sunday launched a series of strikes on Iranian-linked militia bases in Syria and Iraq, after an American contractor was killed in a rocket strike in northern Iraq.

Supporters of Hezbollah Brigades, an Iranian-linked militia that was targeted in the strikes, besieged the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, setting fire to a guard post and raiding a reception area.

The US has responded by ordering 750 soldiers to be sent to the region, while Marines based in Kuwait are set to head to Iraq.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a stern warning to Washington against any further military action in Iraq, a country where Tehran wields huge influence - mostly through proxy Shia militias.

"If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, & glory," he said on Twitter.

"If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront & strike them."

Tensions between the US and Iran have been ongoing after President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear agreement with Tehran two-years-ago and enacted tough new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks on Gulf shipping this year, as well as drone and rocket strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

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