United States pulls 'non-emergency staff' from Iraq as Iran tensions mount

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The United States withdrew staff from its embassy in Iraq on Wednesday out of apparent concern about perceived threats from Iran, with USA sources saying they believe Tehran encouraged the attacks on the oil tankers. "The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to United States citizens in Iraq".

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seen in 2009, reportedly said of the USA that 'neither we, nor them is seeking war.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile said that drone attacks on two oil pumping stations by Yemen's Houthi rebel movement, which is supported by Iran, had forced it to temporarily shut the main East-West Pipeline.

Both the United States and Iran have said they do not want war, and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday he had indications "things will end well" despite the rhetoric.

In this Friday, May 10, 2019 photo released by the U.S. Navy, logistics specialists attach cargo to an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf.

"There were no assurances from Pompeo", Putin's spokesman told reporters. "They know that it is not to their benefit".

Tehran is threatening to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the 3.67% permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers. Though Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, scientists say the time needed to reach the 90 per cent threshold for weapons-grade uranium is halved once uranium is enriched to around 20 per cent.

"Achieving 20 per cent enrichment is the most hard part", Khamenei said, according to the newspaper.

The source said the United States believes Iran's role was one of actively encouraging militants but indicated the United States does not now have evidence that Iranian personnel played any direct operational role.

The MT Andrea Victory, one of the alleged targets, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from "an unknown object", its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement.

"We have to avoid any war with Iran", she told fellow Democrats in a meeting, according to a person in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss comments from the private gathering.

Last week, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that a USA aircraft carrier strike group, B-52 bombers and a Patriot missile battery would be deployed to the region in response to intelligence suggesting Iran or its proxies are preparing to target US interests.

That contradicts what British Maj.

"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". In a written statement, Central Command said the coalition in Baghdad has increased the alert level for all service members in Iraq and Syria.

The Dutch defence ministry said Dutch soldiers had also suspended their training mission due to an unspecified threat, local media reported. It says the three countries, working with global partners, are investigating.

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