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Blinken makes unannounced visit to Iraq

Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday – a significant stop on his whirlwind trip through the region.

Blinken met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad for more than an hour. He also visited the US Embassy, where he received a security briefing on the threat to US facilities.

US officials have warned against other parties becoming involved in the Israel-Hamas war. In the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack, Iranian-backed proxy groups have scaled up attacks aimed at US troops in Iraq and Syria.

Last month, the US intercepted three drones in Iraq targeting US forces. One attack resulted in minor injuries to coalition forces. Attacks on US forces in Iraq have become increasingly rare since the US ended its combat mission there and transitioned to an advise-and-assist role to the Iraqi military.

Blinken told reporters his meeting with the prime minister was “good” and “productive,” and said he made clear that attacks by Iranian-backed militias against US personnel are unacceptable.

Blinken said he reiterated that the US will “do what’s necessary to protect our personnel and military facilities.”

He added that the US and Iraq have a “shared purpose and commitment” in trying to prevent Iranian-backed militia attacks. He commended al-Sudani’s “important statement condemning these attacks” against US personnel.

“He’s working with his own security forces and others to take necessary action … to seek to prevent them,” Blinken said at a news conference.

The two leaders also discussed ensuring the conflict in Gaza does not spread into the wider region and the US’ commitment to coordinating with Iraq and other partners in the Middle East to ensure access to humanitarian aid, according to a statement by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. They also touched on “the need to ensure that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza,” Miller said.

Ahead of his stop in Iraq, Blinken on Sunday also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah amid escalating Israeli settler violence in the West Bank. During his trip to the region, Blinken made stops in Israel, Jordan and Cyprus. From Iraq he will travel to Turkey.

Before Blinken’s visit to Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was the highest-ranking Biden administration official to travel to the country, when he made an unannounced trip to Baghdad in March.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jack Forrest, Abby Baggini and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.

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