Published: Sat, May 18, 2019

United Kingdom raises threat level for Mideast personnel

United Kingdom raises threat level for Mideast personnel

It comes amid a U.S. military build-up to counter Iran.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United States ordered all non-essential government staff to leave Iraq right away amid escalating tensions with Iran.

The German and Dutch Defense Ministries also said on Wednesday that they had temporarily paused their training missions in Iraq, which also includes troops that train Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the autonomous Kurdish region. The U.S. Consulate in Basra has been closed since September following a rocket attack blamed on Iranian-backed militias.

The embassy said it could provide only limited emergency services to USA citizens.

Iran has not made any direct public threats to spark the United States deployment.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unexpected visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss U.S. security concerns amid what he called "escalating" Iranian activity.

The U.S. announced May 5 that it was sending a bomber group and a carrier strike group to the region, although the strike group already was scheduled to pass through the region at some point anyway. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, accused Tehran of ordering "the terrorist acts" against their oil pipeline, a drone attack that was claimed by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

Anwar Gargash, the minister of foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates, told reporters in Dubai that the Saudi-led coalition will "retaliate hard" for attacks on civilian targets, without elaborating.

"We believe that escalation by the United States is unacceptable and uncalled for".

But allies have expressed caution in public and alarm in private, challenging US claims of a rising threat level, and, at times, raising concerns that the diplomatic spat is being politicized by the Trump administration.

Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iranian nuclear deal, in 2018.

Separately, Iran's foreign minister said sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are "unacceptable" but added that his country is committed to an global nuclear deal that has steadily unraveled amid rising tensions. Quoted in the New York Times, the same official also said that any threat from Iran was insignificant.

"This moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution", said Major General Hossein Salami.

Both Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Pompeo have this week played down fears that their countries were headed for conflict.

Now that the next wave of a proxy war is mounting, these Iraqi factions might once again rise as an Iranian tool to confront U.S. pressure.

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