Aiming to isolate Iran, the USA looks increasingly isolated itself

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A partial view of the Iraqi capital Baghdad is reflected in the visor of a U.S. Army helicopter crew member as he looks out of a Chinook helicopter flying from the U.S. Embassy to Baghdad International airport on January 9, 2019.

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

Apparently eager to squash the general's remarks, the U.S. Central Command issued astatementjust hours later disputing Ghika's comments and repeatingnational security adviser John Bolton's unsubstantiated claimthat American intelligence has "identified credible threats" from "Iranian-backed forces" in Iraq and Syria.

Paramilitary groups trained, armed and advised by Iran have played an important role in the battle against IS in Iraq.

There has been a marked increase in U.S.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments in a meeting with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo as tensions rise in the Middle East, fuelling concern that the U.S. and Iran are heading for a conflict.

Washington also says that Tehran is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, despite having agreed to strict controls under an worldwide accord that Trump abandoned after winning election in 2016.

The US administration has backed out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, slapped stringent sanctions targeting the country's economy, placed Iran's Revolutionary Guards on its terrorist list and pressured US allies to stop trading with Iran. "We exercise maximum restraint in spite of the fact that the United States withdrew from [the] JCPOA last May", Zarif said in Tokyo where he is holding talks with his Japanese counterpart.

On Monday, a United States official said that Iran was a leading candidate for the tanker sabotage, but the United States did not have conclusive proof. Iran's decision does not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet.

The remarks come amid rising tensions in the Mideast, with allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers near the Persian Gulf, a drone attack by Yemen's Iranian-allied rebels and the dispatch of US warships and bombers to the region.

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. If not, the United States would respond with force.

The attacks took place against a backdrop of U.S.

The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is tasked with protecting commercial ships in the area.

Washington says it has received intelligence on possible attacks by Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, possibly targeting USA bases in Iraq or Syria.

The US State Department has ordered the pullout of some employees from both its embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil.

But in he also reiterated Iran's threat to resume elements of its nuclear program, telling a group of officials during a meeting on Tuesday night that "achieving 20 percent enrichment is the most hard part".

"Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended", it said, recommending those affected depart as soon as possible.

Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they were suspending training of soldiers in Iraq; German defence ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said there was "generally heightened alert, awareness" among soldiers in the region, but gave no specifics.

One source said the United States believes Iran's role has been one of actively encouraging militants to undertake such actions and went beyond simply dropping hints.

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