WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday to discuss the latest events in Iraq, where Iran-backed militiamen withdrew from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after clashing with U.S. security forces for two days.
The call came shortly after Netanyahu announced that he will ask lawmakers to grand him immunity from prosecution as he faces trial in three corruption cases.
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Pompeo called Netanyahu as part of a round of calls with leaders in the Middle East, which also included the Iraqi prime minister and the emir of Qatar, as the Pentagon plans to send hundreds of additional troops to the Mideast. The call was Pompeo's second with Netanyahu this week.
In his conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, Pompeo "noted the measures the Government of Iraq has taken to improve the security situation and stressed the Government of Iraq’s obligation to prevent further attacks against our diplomatic mission," the State Department said.
The call with Netanyahu also centered on the events at the embassy, as well as on the American attack on an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq that preceded it. Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for that action and encouraged the U.S. to increase its pressure on Iran.
Speaking on Thursday before leaving for meetings in Greece, Netanayhu said Israel “fully supports any move by the United States, as well as its right to defend itself and its citizens.”
Pompeo postponed his trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus “due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
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Pompeo was set to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump’s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine.
In late November, while Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, were both trying to assemble a coalition government, Pompeo announced a change in U.S. policy on the legality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Pompeo also visited Israel during the country's first election cycle of 2019, and accompanied Netanyahu on a publicized tour of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.
Reuters contributed to this report.