Blinken warns against "taking advantage" of Gaza war to damage U.S. interests in Middle East

Blinken warns against "taking advantage" of Gaza war to damage U.S. interests in Middle East

Shafaq News/ U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday warned against "taking advantage" of the ongoing war in Gaza to damage his country's interests in Iraq or the Middle.

Blinken, who paid an unannounced visit to Iraq earlier today, is on a tour in the Middle East amid growing tension after the eruption of a war between Israel and Hamas last month.

After an earlier visit to the occupied West Bank, Blinken arrived in Baghdad for his first official visit to the country as Washington's top diplomat and held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani.

Yesterday, Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah issued a warning that the expected Blinken visit would be met with "an unprecedented escalation."

Blinken landed at Baghdad’s international airport, donned a ballistic vest and traveled by Black Hawk helicopter to the Green Zone, a remnant of the U.S. occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion.

At the U.S. ambassador’s residence he was briefed on threats to U.S. facilities, before heading to the prime minister's office.

Rocket and drone attacks on U.S. and coalition troops have stepped up in Iraq and Syria since Hamas' attacks on Oct. 7 sparked an improportional Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

Speaking to the press after his meeting, Blinken said his meeting with the prime minister was "good" and "productive", and said he made clear that attacks by Iranian-backed groups against US personnel are totally unacceptable.

"It was very important to send a very clear message to anyone who might seek to take advantage of the conflict in Gaza to threaten our personnel here or anywhere else in the region: Don’t do it," Blinken told reporters after meeting al-Sudani.

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

They also discussed making sure the conflict in Gaza does not spread into the wider region.

Al-Sudani has pledged to pursue the perpetrators of rocket attacks on three military bases in Iraq hosting international coalition advisers, including Ain al-Asad in western Iraq, a military base near Baghdad's international airport, and Harir in the capital city of the Kurdistan region, Erbil.

Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning on Friday, as Blinken arrived in the region, that preventing a regional conflict is contingent on stopping the Israeli attack on Gaza, and said there was a possibility of fighting on the Lebanese front turning into a full-fledged war.

The U.S. top diplomat will travel to Turkey later on Sunday, where protests were already underway.

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