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Booker, Colleagues Demand Answers on Embassy Security Amidst Fallout in the Middle East

January 10, 2020
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WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development, along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tom Udall (D-NM), today urged the Trump Administration to detail the security measures to protect diplomats, service members, personnel, and their families serving in overseas posts in the Middle East after the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani.

 

In a letter to President Trump, Booker and colleagues asked how his Administration plans to fulfill its responsibility to protect American officials serving abroad, who require timely information, intelligence, and the full support of the Administration in order to adequately account for the new security challenges in the region. The letter also asks for evidence following Trump’s claim that General Soleimani had plans to destroy U.S. Embassy Baghdad.

 

“We write with grave concern about the safety of our diplomats, troops, and personnel in embassies and consulates in the Middle East now grappling from the fallout of the U.S’s targeted killing of General Qassem Soleimani,” the members wrote. “In the most significant tensions between Iran and the U.S. in forty years, it is becoming clear that our embassies and consulates could become targets.”

 

“The American people, including Congress were not a part of your decision to unnecessarily escalate tensions in the region. As the U.S. military, diplomats, personnel, and their family members face increasing risks in the region as a result of the unintended consequences from killing of General Soleimani, the work of protecting them has never been more important.”

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

January 10, 2020

 

President Donald Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear Mr. President, 

 

We write with grave concern about the safety of our diplomats, service members, personnel, and their families in embassies and consulates in the Middle East now grappling from the fallout of the United States’ targeted killing of General Qassem Soleimani. The operation is part of an escalatory cycle of violence coming after supporters of Kata'ib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed Iraqi militias breached and burned parts of the Baghdad Embassy. In retaliation for the death of General Soleimani, Iran struck two bases where U.S. troops were housed with ballistic missiles. In the most significant tensions between Iran and the U.S. in forty years, it is becoming clear that our embassies and consulates could become targets. 

 

Your administration has statutory responsibility to protect American officials serving abroad. These diplomatic security responsibilities include developing and implementing programs to protect U.S. government personnel abroad and, when necessary, providing for the safe evacuation of such personnel when their lives are endangered. Tehran and its proxies have demonstrated the capacity to plot and in some cases successfully carry out attacks around the world, meaning the embassies and missions must evaluate potential targets and suspicious actors globally. To adequately evaluate their security stance and maintain the security of personnel and facilities, U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and missions require timely information, intelligence, and full support from your Administration in Washington.

 

We respectfully request answers to the following questions:

 

  • What notice, if any, was given to Embassies Baghdad, Beirut, Amman, Kuwait City, Doha, Manama, Islamabad, and Kabul ahead of the strike that killed General Soleimani in order to account for the threat of Iranian retaliation?
  • Are there any plans to evacuate personnel or family members from missions in the region?
  • What additional measures have been put in place to protect personnel and overseas posts from damage and attack?
  • What consideration has been given, if any to the convening of an Accountability Review Board in the wake of the December 31, 2019 breach of the U.S. Embassy Baghdad compound?
  • Has there been deployment of Marines assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force to missions across the region other than U.S. Embassy Baghdad?
  • What has been the response from host country authorities to augment security provided by host country security forces?
  • What role, if any, has the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for High Threat Programs played in the planning for the security of personnel and missions in the region? 
  • What plans, if any, are there to use carryover funds from previously appropriated embassy security funds to augment facility security in light of the increased threat posed by Iran and its proxies? 
  • What evidence do you have regarding General Soleimani’s alleged plot to destroy the Baghdad Embassy?

 

The American people, including Congress were not a part of your decision to unnecessarily escalate tensions in the region. As the U.S. military, diplomats, personnel, and their family members face increasing risks in the region as a result of the unintended consequences from killing of General Soleimani, the work of protecting them has never been more important. We thank you for your prompt attention to these questions.

 

CC: Michael Pompeo, Secretary of State
CC: Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense

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