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

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

It provided little evidence to support its case, but the State Department ordered all "non-emergency USA government employees" to leave Iraq.

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump's administration has applied new sanctions pressure on Tehran and sent additional forces to the Middle East to counter what it says is a heightened threat from Iran to United States soldiers and interests in the region. Iraqi officials expressed skepticism about any purported threats - as did a senior British official who is the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.

A USA government source said American security experts believe Iran gave its "blessing" to tanker attacks, which hit two Saudi crude oil tankers, a UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker off Fujeirah near the Strait of Hormuz.

Washington has sent additional military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles in a show of force against what U.S. officials have said is a threat to its troops and interests in the region.

Romney said it's "inconceivable" that Trump would start a conflict with Iran.

"Comparisons to Iraq 2003 are simply wrong", said senior State Department officials.

Tehran has called the US military presence "a target" rather than a threat, and said it would not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Dutch officials said they would be suspending its training of Iraqi soldiers "until further orders" while the U.S. and Iran try to work things out.

"It would be an act of gross negligence if we did not take the necessary precautions in the light of credible threat streams", said one of the unnamed officials who briefed reporters on Wednesday, on the department's condition of anonymity.

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Unnamed U.S. officials told Reuters that Iran encouraged the Houthis or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out the attacks.

It's pretty much unheard-of for the U.S. military to criticise a senior British general serving alongside them.

"I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon", he said, without elaboration. "Neither we nor [the U.S.] seek war". -Iranian tension following Washington's decision this month to try to cut Iran's oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.

Former CIA chief John Brennan responded by tweeting, "Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy".

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments in a meeting with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo as tensions rise in the Middle East, fuelling concerns that the United States and Iran are heading for conflict.

Also on Wednesday, Germany, which has 160 soldiers in Iraq, suspended military training operations, citing increasing regional tensions.

It was not immediately clear what led to the order on Wednesday.

Britain, historically the United States' closest ally, is openly balking at the prospect of a war with Iran.

Khamenei continued: "This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war".

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