U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned Iraqi leaders that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad would close and all diplomats removed unless Iraq reins in on attacks by Iranian proxy militias on American military and diplomatic sites. The embassy is located inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Secretary Pompeo hasn’t commented publicly on that report. Yet, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement that they don’t comment on private meetings the Secretary has with foreign leaders. However, the statement specified that the United States “will not tolerate threats to our men and women serving abroad.” 

“We have made the point before that the actions of lawless Iran-backed militias remain the single biggest deterrent to stability in Iraq,” the statement added. “It is unacceptable for Iran-backed groups to launch rockets at our embassy, attack American and other diplomats, and threaten law and order in Iraq.” The statement specified that these Iranian-backed militias are “the single biggest deterrent” to the U.S. ensuring financial support for Iraq.

This warning comes on the heels of reports that American intelligence had picked up indications of an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Politico reported that it spoke with three sources with knowledge of the situation. Reportedly, Matthew Tueller, the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, had told Iraqi officials that the U.S. has become aware of a direct threat to an American target. The exact target of the attack or the location is still unknown.

On Sunday, Ahmed Mulla Talal, the spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi, told reporters that Iraq hopes the U.S. “will reconsider” its decision. “There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them,” he added. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein traveled to Tehran and reportedly discussed the issue with Iran’s leadership.

However, Politico reported that according to Defense Department sources inside the Pentagon, the threat to pull out of Baghdad was more of a bluff to force Iraq to act.

The threatened embassy closure could prove a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it could send the message to the Iranians that the constant attacks by their proxies on U.S. diplomatic and military facilities have been successful. This, in turn, could provoke further attacks.

On the other hand, it could signal that if intelligence regarding an impending attack is serious enough, the door opens for a heavy U.S. response. Additionally, it is possible that if U.S. diplomats were to leave, American military forces would feel freer to use airstrikes and other means to hit the Iran-backed proxy militias without the fear of reprisals against diplomatic staff, as it happened in January.