Blinken’s Visit to Iraq Aims to Prevent Escalation in Gaza

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday as part of his tour of the Middle East amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. Following his visit to the occupied West Bank, Blinken arrived in Baghdad for his first visit to the country as the top U.S. diplomat. During his visit, he held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. The U.S. aims to prevent a wider regional conflict and has increased diplomatic efforts with countries in the region that have been affected by Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Upon landing at Baghdad’s international airport, Blinken wore a ballistic vest and traveled by Black Hawk helicopter to the Green Zone, which is a reminder of the U.S. presence in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. At the U.S. ambassador’s residence, he received a briefing on threats to U.S. facilities before heading to the prime minister’s office. Later on, he is expected to travel to Turkey.

On Saturday night, Hezbollah issued a warning that Blinken’s visit would result in an “unprecedented escalation.” U.S. defense officials have reported increased rocket and drone attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Syria since October 7.

Speaking to reporters after meeting al-Sudani, Blinken emphasized the importance of sending a clear message to anyone attempting to exploit the conflict in Gaza to threaten U.S. personnel in the region. Al-Sudani has pledged to pursue those responsible for the rocket attacks on military bases hosting international coalition advisers in Iraq.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned that preventing a regional conflict relies on halting the Israeli attack on Gaza. He also expressed concern about the potential for a full-scale war on the Lebanese front.

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