The U.S. State Department has urged all U.S. citizens to immediately leave Iraq.
"Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended," the State Department tweeted. "U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy."
This security alert came this morning following the U.S. government's assassination of an Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad.
Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Force, died after a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump.
According to a statement from the Pentagon, Soleimani "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region".
"He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months—including the attack on December 27th—culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel," the Pentagon stated. "General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week."
The deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the U.S. attack.
On December 31, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted a photo of al-Muhandis and other alleged "terrorists" at protests outside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
This morning, Pompeo claimed that the U.S. "remains committed to de-escalation".
Some Iraqis have been dancing in the streets over the news of Soleimani's death.
But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has threatened "harsh retaliation".
He described Soleimani as "the international face of resistance" in a televised address while referring to his killers as "the cruelest people on Earth".
“The demise of our selfless and dear general is bitter, but the continued fight and achievement of the final victory will make life bitterer for the murderers and criminals,” Khamenei said.
Iran is holding three days of public mourning for the general.
Tehran-born Iranian-American scholar Vali Nasr has tweeted that Soleimani was the most popular Iranian regime figure in the country.
Therefore, Nasr has suggested that there will "immense" public pressure on the regime to retaliate.
The murder of the Iranian general has also caused oil prices to spike by four percent, as of this writing.
According to OPEC, Iran produced 2.1 million barrels per day in November 2019, which was down significantly from the 2.7 million barrels per day produced between December 2018 and March 2019.
Prior to U.S. sanctions being imposed in November 2018, Iran was producing 3.7 million barrels of oil per day.
In the past, India was heavily reliant on Iran for oil, but it ceased doing this in May in response to U.S. sanctions.
In 2019 there was a sharp increase in U.S. oil exports to India. Iraq is India's largest supplier.
Iran has a population in excess 80 million and its Shia religious leaders support Shia Muslims in Sunni-ruled Arab countries.
Before Trump was elected in 2016, his advisers included two extreme U.S. hawks on Iran, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn and former CIA director James Woolsey. Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, was also one of America's most vocal hawks in dealing with Iran.
Since becoming president, Trump has aligned the U.S. far more closely with the murderous Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It's an arch rival to Iran in the region.
Trump's decision to target the Iranian general has not gone over well with everyone. Below, you can read two tweets by David Madden, co-director of the Cities Program at the London School of Economics and the coauthor of In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis.
Below are two tweets by Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired U.S. senior intelligence service officer who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.