MESOP : GOING HOME TO OBAMA !/ U.S. to Evacuate Many Staff Members From Baghdad Embassy

By TIM ARANGO &  MICHAEL R. GORDONJUNE 15, 2014 – ERBIL, Iraq — The American Embassy in Baghdad plans to evacuate a substantial number of its personnel this week in the face of a militant advance that rapidly swept from the north toward the capital, the State Department announced on Sunday.

The embassy, a beige fortress on the banks of the Tigris River within the heavily-secured Green Zone, where Iraqi government buildings are also located, has the largest staff of any United States Embassy.The exact number of people being evacuated was not clear Sunday. The embassy would remain open, a person familiar with the planning said, and much of its staff of about 5,500 would stay in Baghdad. The American government is expected to call the move a relocation, suggesting that it is a temporary precaution, the person said.

Many staff members who are leaving will be flown to Amman, Jordan, where they will continue their work at the embassy there. Others will be shifted from Baghdad to consulates here in Erbil, in the northern Kurdish region, and in Basra, in the south, which are not now under threat by the militants.

Other Americans in Iraq, particularly contractors working for companies that had been training the Iraqi military on weapons systems purchased from the United States, have already been evacuated from the country.Last week, in quick fashion, militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and then moved south and took other towns, vowing to march on to Baghdad. But over the weekend, the militant advance seemed to slow, while in Baghdad volunteers flocked to join newly reconstituted militias to defend the capital.

In response to the crisis, President Obama has said he is weighing a range of actions to help the Iraqi government turn back the insurgents, including airstrikes or other military aid. Earlier this year, when insurgents captured Falluja and other parts of western Anbar Province, the American government rushed guns, ammunition and Hellfire missiles to aid the Iraqis, but has done little to dislodge the militants.

Tim Arango reported from Erbil, Iraq, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.