U.S. pulls staff from Iraq, says Iran gave 'blessing' for tanker attacks

Iran's Revolutionary Guard members march during armed forces parade marking the anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 Iraq Iran war in front of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini just out

These allegations have zeroed in on Iraq, where Shi'ite militias that the U.S. has tried to brand as "Iranian proxies" might be presented as a threat that is at least tangentially related to Iran.

"This threat stream is very similar to what we saw in 2011 in Iraq, where they were firing the equivalent of barrel bombs at our installations", the officials said later, adding "and it's the same [Iranian-backed Iraqi] groups: it's Asaib Ahl al-Haq, it's Kataib Hezbollah, it's [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]-commanded and controlled Iraqi militias, and so I'm seeing the same threat reporting and I'm seeing the same preparations that I saw back then". "The safety and welfare of United States government personnel and USA citizens is the department's highest priority".

Meanwhile, a senior officer in the US -led military coalition combating Islamic State said Tuesday he had seen no greater recent threat to its troops in Iraq or Syria from forces backed by Iran.

British, Netherlands and German forces in the global coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria downplayed the immediate threat from Iran.

Pro-coalition troops are expected to pull back as well under the deal once the two sides work out details for a broader phase two redeployment in Hodeidah, the main entry point for Yemen's commercial and aid imports and the Houthis' key supply line.

United States allies in Iraq have refrained from echoing Washington's warning cry.

Pompeo told Iraq's top brass to keep the militias, which are expanding their power in Iraq and now form part of its security apparatus, in check, the sources said.

Some US lawmakers worry that Iran's proxy forces could attack US facilities in Iraq and Syria.

Neither Trump nor his top officials have elaborated on the nature of those threats as the US sends an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region in what they call a precaution to deter any potential attack from Iran. "Neither we nor them (the US) seek war", Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump's administration is applying new sanctions pressure on Tehran and sending additional forces to the Middle East to counter what it says is a heightened threat from Iran to US soldiers and interests in the region.

"This is an imminent threat to our personnel", said a second official. The statement, once again, failed to provide any details about these "threats".

Dr Gargash's comments appear to reflect the reservations of many in Europe who, rather than lending their full support to the Trump administration's bellicose stance towards Iran, have expressed doubts about the American approach.

Browbeating Iraq may be a good way to increase US tensions with Iran, but it also risks worsening US-Iraq relations, which already aren't great.

Fears have grown out of President Donald Trump's decision a year ago to withdraw the USA from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions - the latest levied as recently as last week - that have crippled Iran's economy.

Hunt said he had discussed Iran with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week in London, and again in Brussels on Monday.

Tehran has rejected the allegation of Iranian involvement and Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif said that "extremist individuals" in the United States government were pursuing unsafe policies. He added, "We had formerly anticipated that they would carry out these sorts of activities to escalate tension".

Earlier this year, Trump provoked outrage in Baghdad when he said he wanted USA troops to stay in Iraq so they can "watch Iran", suggesting a changing mission for American troops there.

Germany has also taken steps to secure its troops, suspending all military training operations in Iraq, according to the Independent.

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