Middle Eastern Regional Tensions Alert

Updated on 7 January 2020





The Situation:

On 3 January 2020, the US conducted an airstrike at Baghdad airport that killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Almost immediately, Iran threatened retaliation, meanwhile, in Iraq, protestors gathered. Later that day, the US warned citizens to depart Iraq immediately and, on the same day, sent more than 3,000 troops to the region. Anti-US protests took place in India-administered Kashmir and Pakistan.


On 4 January 2020, Soleimani’s body departed Iraq to Iran, greeted by thousands of mourners. Rhetoric and social media exchanges began to escalate. Security heightened at numerous transit, government and other locations worldwide


On 5 January 2020, Iraq's parliament voted for the expulsion of US troops from the country. A pullout of the estimated 5,200 U.S. troops (troop withdrawals have not begin as of this report). Iran announced it was abandoning the 2015 Nuclear Deal and will remove all restrictions for enriching uranium immediately.


On 6 January 2020, anti-US rallies began in Manila, Philippines. Germany's foreign minister stated European countries will respond this week to Iran's announcement that it will not abide by the Nuclear Deal. In Israel and other countries in the region, the US Embassy strongly encouraged U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, as security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning.


On 7 January 2020, Soleimani's body arrived in his hometown of Kerman for his burial where 56 were killed and more than 200 injured during a stampede at his funeral procession. According to Iran state TV, “tens” of rockets were fired toward Iraq’s Ain Assad Air Base, which houses US troops.

Iran strikes US-Iraq military bases in Iraq

Regional air space restrictions imposed


Reactions around the world:

  • Anti-US protests in Manila and New Delhi, among others

  • Widespread criticism of the US strike, including some NATO allies

  • Flight delays and cancellations in the region – several were announced in Istanbul Turkey

  • Increase in US troop presence in the region as buildup continues as of this report

  • Reduction of allied troops in Iraq

Concerns:

  • Continued increase in rhetoric increase tensions among leaders

  • Continued exchanges between US-Iran and their allies

  • Potential for increase in terrorist attacks, both lone wolf and large-scale

  • Continued anti-US protests and demonstrations, which are likely to be large-scale

  • Regional flight delays and cancellations

  • Sudden, broad communication disruptions

  • Military presence increases in the region increases the probability of lethal mishap

  • Possible expulsion or detention of US citizens abroad in contentious countries

Recommendations and Mitigation Measures to Consider:

  • Avoid large crowds which can turn violent and attract unwanted attention

  • Avoid travel to the region if at all possible

  • If in the region avoid gathering with westerners and remain situationally aware

  • Understand the locations of allied embassies in the event access to a primary embassy is blocked/restricted

  • Prepare for possible travel disruptions due to sudden airspace, border closures, and more aggressive security procedures at points of embarkation and debarkation

  • Maintain communication throughout the remainder of your trip

  • Confirm flight status before departing to the airport

  • Monitor reliable local and social media sources for updates

  • Enroll in a Safe Traveler program from your preferred embassy to receive warnings


DISCLAIMER and Hold Harmless

Disclaimer: LSDS® gathers information from multiple sources and offers insight and perspective to travelers. Sources cannot be validated for accuracy in every instance. Travelers assume all risk associated with their travel and are responsible for the decisions associated with travel and for their own safety. Users of this reference document agree, to hold harmless LSDS® (LLC) its employees and clients associated with any risk or injury incurred during travel.

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