Iran has ordered militants in Iraq to attack US interests in Baghdad should the US carry out military strikes in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing intercepted communications from the Iranians.
The message from Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, to Shi'ite allies in Iraq was intercepted in recent days, US officials told the Journal.
The US Embassy in Baghdad was one potential target of a retaliatory strike by the Shi'ite groups, the paper quoted US officials as saying.
The US State Department on Thursday warned Americans against nonessential travel to Iraq, citing terrorist activity "at levels unseen since 2008."
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The Journal quoted US officials as saying the delay in a US strike against Syria increases the chance for the Shi'ite militias in Iraq and other allies of the Assad regime to coordinate attacks against US interests.
US military forces in the region are also preparing for retaliation by Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf against American warships, according to the report.
Officials also fear that Hezbollah could potentially target the US Embassy in Beirut, the Journal reported.
Syrian and Iranian officials, as well as Hezbollah have warned repeatedly that retaliation for a US strike against the Assad regime would be directed against Israel.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief, Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Ali Jafari, said last week that a US military attack on Syria would lead to the “imminent destruction” of Israel and would prove a “second Vietnam” for America.
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