United States pulls staff from Iraq, says Iran gave 'blessing' for tanker attacks

Sergio Conner
May 17, 2019

The White House says that Iran, a longtime enemy and rival of United States allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, is sowing instability across the region.

"It's disappointing to not be able to say that I trust the American intelligence and the American administration but from everything I've seen, both classified and unclassified, I think the British assessment is much more accurate in this case", the Massachusetts Democrat said on CNN's "Right Now" show.

The alert, published on the embassy's website, comes after Washington last week said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests.

The Department of State has ordered the pullout of employees from both the US Embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil, the embassy says in a statement.

The United States, which had a large troop presence in Iraq from 2003-2011 after invading to topple dictator Saddam Hussein, sent troops back there in 2014 to help fight Islamic State.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement past year and is ratcheting up sanctions on Iran, aiming to strangle its economy by ending its worldwide sales of crude oil.

In his tweets, Trump called both publications "fake news", a phrase the USA president used earlier this week to describe a New York Times report that claimed he was considering sending 120,000 troops to the region to prepare for a military confrontation with Iran. Two years later, his administration signed the nuclear deal with six world powers that spurred hopes for wider political change.

Ebrahim Raisi, who became head of the judiciary in March and is a contender to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, retorted that all branches of government had sufficient authority to carry out their duties.

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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".

It has given the European Union, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, and Russia, the remaining signatories of the deal, 60 days to come up with a way for it to continue to sell oil and receive the revenues. Tehran could ship the excess amounts out of the country for storage or sale.

Iran's initial moves do not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet.

Attacks on Saudi tankers and other vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this week expose vulnerabilities in the security of a key oil-shipping route amid rising tensions between the United States, Iran and Gulf Arab states.

Iran's supreme leader issued a veiled threat in the same speech in which he stated that "no one is seeking war", saying it wouldn't be hard for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels amid rising tensions with the USA, state media reported Wednesday. It has said it will keep strong ties with Iran, and also with both the United States and regional Arab neighbors, some of whom, like Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran an archrival. While ISIS has been stripped of all its territory in Iraq, it still controls thousands of fighters and conducts terrorist attacks.

Four Iraqi federal police officers were killed on May 15 in an armed attack on their military vehicle some 25 miles southwest of the disputed oil city, Kirkuk, according to a local security source.

Iraqi officials have questioned the threat described by the Americans, however, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

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