September 6, 2013
Officials Say Intercepted Message to Militants Orders Reprisals in Iraq if Syria Hit
JULIAN E. BARNES and ADAM ENTOUS
WASHINGTON—The U.S. has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria, officials said, amid an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.
Military officials have been trying to predict the range of possible responses from Syria, Iran and their allies. U.S. officials said they are on alert for Iran’s fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf, where American warships are positioned.
U.S. officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and on Friday the State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon because of security concerns.
The department has instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private U.S. citizens to depart Lebanon.
The step had been under consideration since last week when President Barack Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
The U.S.is also pulling diplomats out of Adana, Turkey and is recommending that U.S. citizens “defer nonessential travel” to southeastern Turkey.
While the U.S. has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies.
Those deployments include a strike group of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and three destroyers in the Red Sea, and an amphibious ship, the USS San Antonio, in the Eastern Mediterranean, which would help with any evacuations.