US NewsBritish General Contradicts U.S. Claim of Increased Threat From Iran-Backed Militias
Iran Tells Trump: Don't Wait for Us to Pick Up the Phone
Iranian officials rebuffed President Donald Trump’s suggestion that they call him to try to defuse frictions as the U.S. ratcheted up its actions against Tehran. Several top Iranian aides and lawmakers predicted Sunday that the current tensions wouldn’t lead to war, calling the U.S. deployment of an aircraft carrier, warship, bomber jets and missile defenses to the Middle East a propaganda stunt. Antagonism between the countries, already high, has worsened this month since Trump eliminated exceptions to U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil.
“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the coalition responsible for counter-terrorist operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in a video briefing, according to the Guardian.
Iran's supreme leader makes uranium enrichment threat
Iran's supreme leader has issued a veiled threat in the same speech in which he stated that "no one is seeking war," saying it wouldn't be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels amid rising tensions with the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, meanwhile, ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff on Wednesday to leave Iraq immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. Washington did not publicly provide any evidence to back up claims of an increased threat from Tehran.
Ghika said that he has not seen Shia militias in Iraq, who have varying ties to Iran, change their stance recently. “I think it’s important to say that many of them are compliant and we have seen no change in that posture since the recent exchange between the United States and Iran,” he said, according to the Guardian.
Ghika’s comments contradict those of U.S. officials, who cited “clear indications” that Iran or Iranian-backed forces were preparing for a possible attack against U.S. forces as justification for the deployment of an an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East earlier this month.
Foreign Office 'in crisis mode' over US-Iran tensions
Britain's Foreign Office has gone into crisis mode because of rising tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran, Sky News can reveal. At the moment the level of crisis is at the lower end with a small number of additional staff focusing on Iran, and additional reports being produced by officials. However, this level could be increased if the situation in the region worsens, sources said. "We are going into crisis mode," a Whitehall source said, describing it, for now, as "pretty light touch".
The U.S. Central Command rebuked Ghika’s comments in a statement released late Tuesday.
Gallery: Inside the Iran enigma (USA Today)
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Tehran is seeking to exact a cost for U.S. sanctions that have battered its economy, but it wants to avoid all-out war.
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