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The US State Department on Wednesday ordered the departure of “non-emergency government employees” from Iraq, the US embassy in Baghdad said in a statement.

Referring to the embassy and the US consulate it said “normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq”.

The statement recommended those affected “depart by commercial transportation as soon as possible”.

The alert comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, a sign of which was a US decision to send a Patriot missile battery and a Navy amphibious transport dock ship to the Middle East.

On Sunday, the embassy advised Americans to avoid travel to Iraq, citing “heightened tensions”.

Last week, Washington said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests. Washington last month blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a ‘terrorist group’.

The US administration reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and major world powers.

On Wednesday, Iran said it would officially stop fulfilling some commitments under the 2015 deal following an order from its national security council,

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