United States pulls 'non-emergency staff' from Iraq as Iran tensions mount

Sergio Conner
May 16, 2019

His comments come as tensions escalate in the region, with the USA deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers in response to Iran-related threats.

Helicopters took off throughout the day from the vast USA embassy compound near the Tigris River in Baghdad, carrying non-emergency staff out, according to an Iraqi source and a diplomatic source inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

The US embassy in Baghdad has ordered all non-essential and non-emergency staff to leave Iraq immediately as tensions grow between Washington and Iran.

Referring to the embassy and the USA consulate in Erbil, it said "normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended".

Iran is exercising "maximum restraint in spite of the fact the United States withdrew from (the) JCPOA last May", Zarif said at the start of his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

On Tuesday, both Iran and the USA made it clear they do not want the growing tensions to escalate to war.

The administration declined to specify what specifically prompted the staff withdrawal, but defense and security officials have warned in recent weeks there were "escalatory indications and warnings" and a "credible threat" posed by Iran.

The aircraft carrier strike group is being deployed to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran.

Khamenei's comments followed a coordinated drone attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen on a Saudi oil pipeline.

"What we have heard so far has been shallow and superficial at best", Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, told ABC's Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer on ABC News Live.

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An image from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. that the AP examined on Wednesday shows Saudi Aramco's Pumping Station No. 8 outside of the town of al-Duadmi, 330 kilometers (205 miles) west of the kingdom's capital, Riyadh.

Four tankers-two Saudi, one Emirati, and one Norwegian-were attacked on May 12 near the Strait of Hormuz by unidentified saboteurs.

"The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq".

"But the United States has been waiting in vain for a popular revolution in Tehran for decades", the editorial board said. Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions.

Iran's foreign minister on Thursday slammed escalating US sanctions imposed on Tehran by the Trump administration as "unacceptable", even as he insisted that his country is committed to an global nuclear deal that has steadily unraveled amid rising tensions in the Mideast.

"There are a lot of people in my shoes that are going to support standing up to Iran", he said, "but we need to understand what we're doing".

The analyst asked why Iran allows those two countries to run their economic affairs and trade in a normal fashion while Iran is suffering from the impact of sanctions.

Both officials stressed that the United States was not seeking an armed confrontation with Iran, despite the Pentagon's military build-up in the Gulf.

The order came as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a veiled threat in the same speech in which he said "no one is seeking war", saying it would not be hard for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, state media reported on Wednesday.

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