Iran has threatened to resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its 2015 nuclear deal a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord. (8 May)
The U.S. military put its forces in Iraq on high alert and the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees Wednesday to leave the country immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. It comes as some U.S. allies have expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claims that Iran poses a growing threat.
Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman at the U.S. military’s Central Command, said in a statement that there were “possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq” as he sought to clarify contradictory remarks by a British commander on Tuesday.
British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, said that “there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” Ghika’s remarks were later rebutted by Urban in a rare sign of how the U.S. and its close allies have split over Iran’s potential threat.
The Trump administration has made applying “maximum pressure” on Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposed crushing sanctions and boosted the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. In recent days, unease that Washington and Tehran could be headed toward military confrontation has mounted.
In Baghdad, the U.S. Embassy published a statement Wednesday saying the State Department mandated that all non-emergency government staff leave the country after Washington last week said it detected new and urgent “credible” threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and U.S. interests.
Specific details about the intelligence have not been revealed.
But in a worrying sign, Saudi Arabia said this week that two of its oil tankers and other energy-related infrastructure were damaged in an act of “sabotage” in the Gulf. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are fighting a war with Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Tuesday.
Federica Mogherini, Europe’s top foreign affairs diplomat, called for the U.S. to show “maximum restraint” after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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