World: Iraq walks Iran-US tightrope as tensions escalate - - PressFrom - US

WorldIraq walks Iran-US tightrope as tensions escalate

04:40  16 may  2019
04:40  16 may  2019 Source:

Pompeo in Baghdad on unannounced visit: Iraq govt source

Pompeo in Baghdad on unannounced visit: Iraq govt source US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Baghdad late Tuesday on an unannounced visit, an Iraqi government source told AFP, cancelling a trip to Germany amid escalating US-Iran tensions. 

Iraq walking a tightrope between Iran and the US . The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced and sudden trip to Iraq on Tuesday as Washington escalated tensions with Iran by sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran , Europe has urged all sides to avoid further escalation . And in pushing the Iranians to the point where they have walked away from a key component of the deal, it essentially underscores the fact it might not be possible to continue in that

The United States has ordered all non-essential American diplomatic personnel out of Iraq amid heightened tensions with Iran over still-unspecified threats that the Trump administration claims are linked to Tehran.

State Department officials have cited an "imminent" threat to US personnel from Iraqi Shiite militias with ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Trump administration labeled the IRGC a terrorist group last month despite warnings that the move could endanger US personnel in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Iran subsequently labeled US Central Command, which overseas US military operations in the Middle East, a terrorist organization.

The US military and its allies in the region can't get their story straight on the Iran threat

The US military and its allies in the region can't get their story straight on the Iran threat Hours after a general said the threat from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria hadn't risen, US Central Command issued an unusual rebuke.

The US embassy in Iraq said the State Department has ordered all nonessential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Iran . The alert, published on the embassy’s website on Wednesday, came after Washington last week said it had

We have repeatedly announced our position”. The remarks come after tensions between Tehran and Washington are further escalating at the wake of Trump’s US president threatened earlier in a tweet that those who wish to continue trade with Iran will not have the chance to trade with the US .

Read more: Iran's military power: What you need to know

Wednesday's evacuation order comes amid international concern a major conflict could erupt, with Iran resisting the United States' "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran following Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

Iraq walks Iran-US tightrope as tensions escalate© imago/StockTrek Images Provided by Deutsche Welle Over the past few weeks, the US has made several provocative moves that could be perceived by Iran as a potential imminent military threat at a time when the US has engaged in economic warfare.

Read more:US military flare-up 'would be a godsend to Iran hard-liners'

In early May, Trump's hawkish US national security adviser, John Bolton, made a show of an already scheduled US aircraft carrier group deployment to the Persian Gulf and announced a B-52 bomber force would be sent to the region.

State Department orders non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq posts

State Department orders non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq posts The State Department has also warned citizens about traveling to the country.

The fact both the US and Iran are currying support with the government of Baghdad with back-to-back visits, rather than dictating its international and domestic affairs from Washington and Tehran, indicates that Iraq has achieved a sovereign, independent foreign policy that has been elusive since 2003.

WASHINGTON — Russia is using an air corridor over Iraq and Iran to fly military equipment and personnel to a new air hub in Syria, openly defying American efforts to block the shipments and significantly increasing tensions with Washington.

Days later, the Pentagon added a Patriot missile defense battery and an amphibious assault ship to the deployment. The New York Times reported the Trump administration has considered plans to preposition 120,000 troops in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who as a congressman in 2014 once called for hundreds of airstrikes on Iran instead of pursuing diplomacy to reach the Iran nuclear deal, has said Washington doesn't want war. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also said the Islamic Republic doesn't want a conflict.

In recent days, there have been allegations of sabotaged oil tankers in the United Arab Emirates and drone attacks by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels on a Saudi oil pumping station.

Iraq caught between Iran and US influence

Concern is growing that an incident — whether intentional, accidental or staged — could trigger an uncontrollable escalation into a devastating regional war.

German, Dutch military suspend training operations in Iraq amid US-Iran tensions

German, Dutch military suspend training operations in Iraq amid US-Iran tensions Germany and the Netherlands said on Wednesday they were suspending military training operations in Iraq as the United States warned of increased threats from Iran-backed forces amid an escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); A German defense ministry spokesman said Berlin had no indications of its own of any impending attacks on Western interests by Iran and said the training programs could resume in the coming days.

President Trump is denying a New York Times report that he's considering sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran escalates tensions into a full-blown conflict. The report comes as the Pentagon says it's highly likely the country was behind attacks on tankers off the Persian Gulf.

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday threatened a “swift and decisive” US response to any attack by Iran , in the latest of a series of escalating statements and actions. “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against

The tensions have forced Iraq to manage an already tricky balancing act as a neighbor of Iran and security partner of the United States, which has around 5,000 troops in the country.

"Iraq has been in a very difficult situation in recent years because it is very closely associated with both the Americans and Tehran," said Guido Steinberg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has said he has not observed any signals that there was a threat emanating from Iran, contradicting US claims. "We made it clear to the Americans that the government is fulfilling its duty to protect all those involved."

Iran wields influence in Iraq through its economic footprint and extensive ties to Iraqi political groups, Shiite militias and the country's elite. Tehran views the US military presence at its doorstep in Iraq as a threat and challenge to its influence in Baghdad.

That view was strengthened when Trump said earlier this year that it was important to maintain a US military presence in Iraq to "watch Iran," prompting sharp criticism from Iraqi officials.

UK follows US lead, raises threat level in Iraq due to threat from Iran

UK follows US lead, raises threat level in Iraq due to threat from Iran The United Kingdom increased the threat level for its forces and diplomats in Iraq due to the increasing threat from Iran.

Tensions Escalate in Iraq . September 25, 2018September 24, 2018 | Intel Brief. The strength of Iran ’s proxies in Iraq will enable Tehran to exert influence in the country even if the Baghdad government remains aligned with the United States .

The U . S . State Department has today ordered all 'non-emergency government employees' to leave Iraq immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran . It comes against the backdrop of tinderbox relations between Tehran and America and as tensions escalated further with the sabotage of four tankers off

'Political catastrophe for Iraq'

Although Iraq tends to consider the views of Tehran, it has tried to prevent an escalation of the conflict between both parties on Iraqi soil, according to Steinberg.

"It would be a political catastrophe for Iraq if it really comes to attacks, especially because it could lead to American retaliatory attacks, possibly against Iranian-controlled militias in Iraq," he said.

In any military conflict, the Iraqi government would seek to remain neutral, said Manaf Musawi, head of the Strategic Studies Center in Baghdad. But large sections of the security forces and Shiite militias, as well as parts of the population, would oppose the US, according to Musawi.

Although the United States has called on the Iraqi government to control the Shiite militias, former US diplomat Nabeel Khoury believes this could lead to a civil war in the country.

"Taking away arms from the Shiite militias would lead to conflict in Iraq. The attempt to disband these militias and fold them into the Iraqi army has failed," said Khoury, who is now at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

If it chose to, Tehran might be tempted to attack US forces in Iraq indirectly using Iraqi militias deploying irregular tactics rather than face overwhelming US military power directly.

U.S. has heard nothing from Iran on overtures for talks - official

U.S. has heard nothing from Iran on overtures for talks - official The United States is "sitting by the phone" but has heard no message yet from Iran that it is willing to accept President Donald Trump's overtures for direct talks, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday. "We think they should de-escalate and come to negotiations," the official, who declined to be identified, told a small group of reporters. Trump has urged Iran's leadership to hold talks over its nuclear program and regional influence amid rising tensions between the two countries that has fanned fears of armed conflict after the United States deployed an aircraft carrier group to the region.

A misunderstanding: one Turkish official has played down a diplomatic row with Iraq , after hundreds of Turkish soldiers and tanks were sent to Bachika in Iraq , near Mosul, currently controlled by the Islamic state group. The Iraqi government accused Turkey of breaching its country's sovereignty.

Iran ’s supreme leader issued a veiled threat, saying it wouldn’t be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels amid The U . S . Embassy in Baghdad, meanwhile, ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff on Wednesday to leave Iraq immediately amid

"We should not expect big battles to take place between large units. A more likely scenario is that pro-Iranian militias act indirectly, for example by launching rockets or mortar shelling at American bases. They have no chance in direct battles against US troops," Steinberg said.

Distrust of US lingers

It's still unknown whether US warnings of Iranian attacks are real, fabricated or a selective use of intelligence by Iran hawks in the Trump administration.

Parallels with the US-led war with Iraq in 2003 come to mind. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the US made specious claims about Iraq's support for al-Qaida and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, all of which turned out to be false. Figures such as Bolton were major players in justifying the war with Iraq. Since then, distrust of Washington is great in the region.

One thing is clear: a military conflict would leave Iraq caught in the middle.

"Trump does not want to go to war; it would be destructive for everyone. But provocative rhetoric is always followed by mobilization, and mistakes can happen," said Khoury. "The United States is going through a very strange time with a very unusual administration. It's difficult to predict anything."

Chase Winter contributed to this report

Read More

Iran building new crossing on Syria border that would let it smuggle weapons, oil, experts say.
New satellite images indicate Iran is building a border crossing at the Syrian-Iraqi border, which would open up a coveted land route from Iran to Lebanon, according to Western intelligence sources. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); The images, obtained exclusively by Fox News and captured earlier this week, show a new construction in the Albukamal Al-Qaim crossing. The area is under the control of Pro-Iranian Shiite militias. Last summer, Iran increased its presence in the area.

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