Friday, 23 August, 2019

Once again, Iraq caught up in escalating US-Iran tensions

US orders some government employees to leave Iraq 'as soon as possible' U.S. State Department orders most government staff to leave Iraq
Patty Aguilar | 20 May, 2019, 10:26

Early Wednesday, the State Department announced it was withdrawing all non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in Erbil "given the current security conditions", but did not detail the nature of any threat.

Amid a tense standoff between the United States and Iran, four lawmakers are sending a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump expressing concern that he was "inflating threats and bending intelligence" on Iran and leading the United States down a "path to another war in the Middle East"-though top administration officials said they do not seek a war with Iran".

Al Jazeera's Rob Matheson joins us live from Baghdad.

A Trump administration official said a recent small meeting of national security officials was not focused on a military response to Iran, but instead concentrated on a range of other policy options, including diplomacy and economic sanctions. But he also said, "Neither we, nor them is seeking war".

After leaving his post as United Nations ambassador in 2006, Bolton called for military strikes on Iran and regime change there as a private citizen, efforts he continued right up until he joined the Trump administration in April 2018.

"The United States Congress must do everything it can", said Sanders, "to prevent the Trump administration's attempts to put us on the brink of a catastrophic and unconstitutional war with Iran that could lead to even more deaths than the Iraq War". Satellite images obtained Tuesday by the AP from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies showed no visible damage to the vessels, and Gulf officials have refused to say who they suspected was responsible.

- What do U.S. allies say?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the increasing USA sanctions "unacceptable" but said Tehran remained committed to its obligations under the nuclear accord.

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The comments by Major General Chris Ghika, a British spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, drew a sharp retort from US Central Command.

The Foreign Secretary said he had discussed the situation in recent days with U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo and "as always we work closely" with Washington. The reported plan calls for the deployment of troops in the event that Iran either attacks United States forces or ramps up its nuclear-weapons program.

Separately, the Netherlands' defense ministry said it was suspending a training mission in Iraq due to "threats", according to the Dutch ANP news agency.

Peskov said Washington had provoked Iran, but added that "we aresaddened to see the decisions taken by the Iranian side".

According to theNew York Times - whichreportedMonday that President Donald Trump has reviewed a Bolton-crafted plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East to threaten Iran - Trump administration officials are having a hard time convincing America's European allies to join them on their march to war.

He demanded a briefing "immediately" on the threat intelligence, any plans for war and the decision to order embassy staff out of Iraq.

This assertion of Congress's war-making authority is being led in the House by Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Iran may succeed in quelling the current tension and thus avoiding a military confrontation with USA forces, but that all depends on its effectiveness in dealing with the Mossad intelligence operation aimed at pitting the U.S. and Iran into a confrontation.

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