The latest on the US-Iran crisis

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4:06 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

US notifies Iraq of troop movement, but does not confirm withdrawal, official says

The US has notified Iraq of the repositioning of some of its troops, a US official with direct knowledge told CNN today.

The US official in Baghdad told CNN this is just a notification about repositioning of troops from one place to another within the region. The official said these notifications are standard based on a number of movements. “In particular, tonight we were going to have a lot of helicopters flying through Baghdad and it shows that we operate within the laws of the government of Iraq.”

The official continued, “We are still very much partnered with the Iraqi security forces and while our training mission and operations to defeat ISIS in Iraq have paused we look forward to resume those operations at a moment’s notice. Most of these troops being repositioned are involved in the training mission are in administrative roles.”

Another US official confirmed the authenticity of a letter viewed by CNN from the US Department of Defense to the Iraqi Defense Ministry, which discusses the movement of troops in the region.

Dated today, the letter from US Marine Corps Commanding Brigadier General William H. Seely III said, “In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.” The letter does not claim the US is withdrawing troops from Iraq but comes as the US faces the possibility of being told to leave by the Iraqi government.

The letter details helicopter movement around the international zone of Baghdad and said Coalition forces will take appropriate measures to minimize and mitigate disturbances to the public. The letter reiterates “the value of our friendship and partnership” and ends, “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”

CNN’s Arwa Damon and Ingrid Formanek are reporting from Baghdad.

3:38 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

US issues travel advisory in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to "heightened tension"

Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

The US Embassy in Israel has issued a travel advisory for Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza due to "heightened tension in the Middle East."

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy strongly encourages US citizens to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, as security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning," the embassy said in a statement.

The embassy said it would continue to monitor the situation.

Here's a list of guidelines from the embassy:

  • Keep a low profile and be aware of your surroundings
  • Review your personal security plans
  • Have travel documents up to date and easily accessible
  • Avoid all demonstrations
  • Monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities
3:12 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

US expected to deploy 6 bombers for possible Iran operations

The Pentagon is planning to begin the deployment of six B-52 aircraft to the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean on Monday, according to a US official. The B-52s will be available for operations against Iran if ordered, the official said.

Remember: The deployment does not signal that operations have been ordered. The Pentagon has traditionally deployed long range bombers and other aircraft as a sign of US force presence and capability. 

Last year, six B-52s deployed to Qatar when tensions with Iran began rising. But this time Diego Garcia was chosen to keep the aircraft out of the range of Iranian missiles, the official said.

3:09 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

Trump says US "a lot safer" following Soleimani strike

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on Iran following the US airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani.
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on Iran following the US airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump continued to defend the airstrike that killed Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, saying the action has made the US “a lot safer” and that the Obama and Bush administrations should have taken action and killed Soleimani.

On whether Iran will respond to the strike, Trump, speaking in an interview with Rush Limbaugh, said: “We’ll see what the response is, if any.”

“This should have been done for the last 15 to 20 years — him in particular,” Trump said, calling Soleimani a “terrorist.”

Trump continued to criticize former President Barack Obama, saying Obama designated Soleimani a “terrorist" and did “nothing” about it. Trump also criticized the Iran deal. 

“We’re a lot safer now because of it,” Trump told Limbaugh.

2:34 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

Nuclear inspectors remain at work in Iran, agency says

International nuclear inspectors remain at work in Iran, despite the Islamic republic's pulling back from the international nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the International Atomic Energy Agency announced today.

“Our inspectors continue to verify and monitor activities in the country,” the nuclear watchdog tweeted.

More on this: Iran said Sunday that it would no longer limit itself to the restrictions laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal.

2:33 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

Soldiers deploying to Middle East not allowed to take cell phones

Soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division arrive at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on January 4.
Soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division arrive at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on January 4. Andrew Craft/Getty Images

Soldiers deploying overseas with the 82nd Airborne Division will not be allowed to bring personal cellphones or any electronic devices that could reveal their locations due to what the Army calls "operational security,” according to division spokesperson Lt. Col. Michael Burns.

Burns acknowledged the decision is unusual given that many troops routinely deployed already do have personal electronic devices and can even purchase them overseas. The decision, he said, was made in part because the elements of the 82nd that are deploying are part of a rapid response forces and it's not clear where they may eventually be sent.

“We are not going to put our soldiers at risk,” he said.

Burns said the division is trying to keep families fully informed about the deployment and that phone centers would be established for soldiers to make calls eventually.

"This is not the normal kind of deployment. The decision 100% an operational security and force protection measure," said Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the commanding general.

6:45 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

European Union calls special meeting over Iran tensions

The European Foreign Affairs Council will hold a special meeting on Friday as tensions skyrocket in Iraq and Iran following the killing of Iranian military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced today.

The EU is “deeply concerned” by Iran’s declaration it will no longer respect the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today.

Von der Leyen said EU countries “have to convince Iran that it’s also in its own interest” to return to the nuclear deal.

“After the devastation wrought by Da’esh [ISIS], Iraq is developing well and its people deserve to see the continuation of progress towards reconstruction and greater stability,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
2:05 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

House members will be briefed on Iran this week

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House members will also receive a briefing about Iran on Wednesday afternoon, although a specific time has not been established yet, a House Democratic aide said.

Senators are also set to receive a briefing from key administration officials on Wednesday, as CNN reported earlier today.

1:30 p.m. ET, January 6, 2020

McConnell will speak about Iran today on the Senate floor

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will speak about Iran at 3 p.m. ET on the Senate floor, according to an aide.