Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Iraq amid rising tensions with Iran

CBS News – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was supposed to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday afternoon, but the State Department canceled the trip over “pressing issues.” The department did not initially disclose where he was going next, though it was later revealed that Pompeo visited Baghdad, Iraq.

According to the State Department pool, reporters accompanying Pompeo were told they wouldn’t be allow to report the stop until they had left the country.

Pompeo told reporters on the way to Baghdad that the purpose of his visit was “to speak with the leadership there, to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”

This trip comes after an announcement Monday that an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers would be sent to the Persian Gulf in response to “recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region,” according to a Defense Department statement.

“You’ve all seen the reports that there have been escalating — information that indicates Iran is escalating their activity,” Pompeo told reporters. Pompeo was on the ground in Iraq for just over four hours and met with the Iraqi prime minister and president.

“In each meeting we went through a number of things. First of all, we talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country. They both provided assurances that they understood that was their responsibility. We wanted to let them know about the increased threat stream that we had seen and give them a little bit more background on that so they could ensure that they were doing all they could to provide protection for our team,” Pompeo continued.

Pompeo also told reporters Tuesday the German foreign minister “understood completely” why he had to cancel his trip at such short notice.

“He also knows that our relationship with Iraq is important. We’re partners in the challenges Iran presents to Germany and to Europe as well,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sochi on May 14. He may also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin that day.

Christina Ruffini contributed to this report.