U.S. pulls nonessential staff from Iraq amid Mideast tensions

U.S. pulls nonessential staff from Iraq amid Mideast tensions

The Houthis, which have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for four years, said they carried out Tuesday's drone strikes against the East-West pipeline, which caused a fire but Riyadh said did not disrupt output or exports.

Sky News is reporting that the United Kingdom has raised the threat level for British personnel in Iraq because of a heightened risk from Iran.

Iran has been accused by the USA and the United Nations of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthis, which Tehran denies.

Iran blamed Israel for a cyberattack on its communications infrastructure in November.

The Saudi-led coalition retaliated by launching airstrikes on Houthi targets in the Yemeni capital Sanaa which reportedly killed at least six people, and wounded 40 more.

Yemen's Houthi rebels had claimed responsibility on Tuesday for twin drone strikes on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea coast. The incidents were followed by an attack carried out by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on a Saudi oil pipeline.

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.

It is uncertain whether the strikes on Yemen are considered sufficient punishment of Iran through their Houthi proxies (Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir dubbed the Houthis on Thursday "an indivisible part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps" on Twitter), or whether these events, and such opinion pieces, are meant to draw in American military power. Fawaz Ahmed told The Associated Press he saw three bodies being retrieved from the rubble - a father, mother and child, all buried together.

The ministry says 41 people were also wounded, including two women of Russian nationality.

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Washington says it has received intelligence on possible attacks by Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, possibly targeting United States bases in Iraq or Syria.

The Sanaa strikes targeted nine military sites in and around the city. There were casualties, including civilians, the residents said without providing details. That includes those working at the U.S. Consulate in Irbil.

But the move added to growing fears that the long-time rivals could be on course for conflict despite both sides stressing they have no desire for war. He declined to blame Iran directly, although he repeatedly criticised Tehran.

In terms of next steps, Al Jazeera reported Thursday that the Qatari foreign minister is holding talks in Tehran to attempt to defuse tensions.

Al-Jazeera cited an anonymous official on Wednesday night as saying that Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani had traveled to Tehran in recent days to speak with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. FlightRadar24.com, a flight-tracking website, showed a Qatari government airplane landed in Tehran on Saturday. USA military investigators said on Tuesday they had found large holes in each of the four ships believed to be caused by explosives, though no oil spill or casualties were reported.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif told Japanese officials on Thursday in Tokyo that his country's response to the USA actions is within the frameworks of the current nuclear deal and Iran's rights.

President Trump, asked Thursday about the prospect of a war with Iran, replied, "I hope not."

The U.S.in recent days has ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf region, plus four B-52 bombers.

Iran recently threatened it might resume higher enrichment by July 7, beyond the level permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers. Trump, goaded by the Saudis and the Israelis but against the advice of everyone else, unilaterally withdrew from the deal a year ago and imposed fresh sanctions that have devastated Iran's economy.

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