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FAA bans U.S. airlines from flying over Iraq

A member of the Kurdish peshmerga troops stands on a tank on Thursday. August 7, 2014. (Reuters)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it was banning all U.S. airlines from flying in the airspace above Iraq.

Flights are barred from flying over Iraq “due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict” in the area, the agency said. U.S. airlines will only be allowed to fly through Iraqi airspace with authorization from the FAA or another U.S. governmental agency.

The announcement came after U.S. military jets carried out two airstrikes outside of Irbil, with President Obama authorizing airstrikes and humanitarian drops of meals and water. A senior administration official told The Washington Post that the airstrike authorization is narrow but that there could be a number of situations in which such strikes could be launched.

Previously, U.S. airlines were prohibited from flying below 20,000 feet, save for flights taking off from or landing in certain portions of Iraq. In addition, flights taking off from countries near Iraq had been allowed to fly below that threshold with Iraqi approval. Recently, the U.S. government updated that notice to prohibit flights below 30,000 feet. The new guidance supersedes these rules.

The FAA’s prohibition will be reevaluated by the end of the year, officials said.

This is the latest action the FAA has taken to restrict U.S. operators from flying over areas with military conflicts. The agency banned airlines from flying to or from Israel for two days after a rocket landed near the country’s biggest airport. And after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine, the FAA prohibited any U.S. operators from flying through that region.

Head here for a map showing where U.S. flights are prohibited around the world.

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Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.
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