USA pulls embassy staff from Iraq amid concerns over 'confrontation' with Iran

Friday, 17 May, 2019

This is far from the first time the US has made changes to its diplomatic posture in Iraq.

The State Department has ordered all non-emergency staff stationed in Iraq to leave the country immediately as credible threats of attack from Iran continue.

Yes, Team Trump sent a Navy carrier battle group into the Gulf, and on Wednesday, the USA embassy in Baghdad also ordered all non-essential, non-emergency staff out of Iraq immediately.

The Washington Post on warned on Tuesday against possible conflict with Iran, saying US President Donald Trump should return to diplomacy with the Islamic Republic "before it's too late".

"Ensuring the safety of U.S. government personnel and citizens is our highest priority. and we want to reduce the risk of harm", a State Department spokesman said.

Democrats in Congress demanded that the Trump administration brief them on what it considers to be the Iran threat, warning that the United States legislature has not approved military action against Tehran.

Mogherini told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made a quick stop in Brussels this week, to use "maximum restraint" towards Iran, a play on the US's self-described "maximum pressure campaign" against the country. The U.S. pulled out of the deal a year ago.

Vice Minister of Defence Khalid bin Salman said the Houthi attacks against Aramco's facilities proved the rebel the group was an "Iranian tool" which Tehran used to implement its agenda in the strife-torn region.

"We believe that escalation by the United States is unacceptable and uncalled for".

Details around alleged acts of sabotage to four oil tankers, including two belonging to Saudi Arabia, off the coast of the UAE's port of Fujairah remain unclear.

U.S. allies in Iraq have refrained from echoing Washington's warning cry.

The attack on the tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world's oil consumption flows, appeared created to test the resolve of the United States and its Sunni Muslim allies without triggering a war, analysts said. Khamenei has final say on all matters of state in Iran.

Painting the plan update as saying anything about White House intentions amounts to the "fake news" that the president called it - even as he signaled resolve by noting, "We'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that", if need be.

A spokesman said: "Attacks by the Houthi militia that is supported by Iran on oil installations in Saudi Arabia are a war crime".

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the level permitted by the current one between Tehran and world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there would not be war with the USA, despite mounting tensions over Iranian nuclear capabilities, its missile program and its support for proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Spain announced that it was pulling its frigate from a US-led naval group that is headed for the Gulf, telling reporters that the "US Government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy".

Last week, Iran notified non-U.S. signatories of the nuclear deal-China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK-of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal.

Under the deal, Tehran was allowed to produce low-enriched uranium within about a 660-pound limit, and produce heavy water with a stock capped at around 130 tons.

Iran's initial moves do not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet. The US pulled out of the deal previous year, re-imposing sanctions that would penalize countries and global companies that do business with Iran. It has said it will keep strong ties with Iran, and also with the United States and Arab neighbors, some of whom, such as Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran a rival.