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USA pulls staff from Iraq, says Iran gave 'blessing' for tanker attacks

USA pulls staff from Iraq, says Iran gave 'blessing' for tanker attacks

Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington - where John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has prodded President Trump into backing Iran into a corner.

Iran described the U.S. moves as "psychological warfare", and a British commander cast doubt on USA military concerns about threats to its roughly 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, who have been helping Iraqi security forces fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The US has said that it is not seeking war with Iran, but it has not ruled it out.

The US State Department ordered all "non-emergency US government employees" to leave Iraq, the US mission there said on Wednesday.

Sen. Mitt Romney rejected suggestions that President Donald Trump was eyeing a war with Iran after reports that the White House was considering sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran escalates its nuclear weapons program or attacks USA soldiers or interests.

The aircraft carrier strike group is being deployed to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unexpected visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss U.S. security concerns amid what he called "escalating" Iranian activity.

However, while the European Union has issued statements critical of Iran, they have not supported USA claims of imminent Iranian attacks.

A USA government source said American security experts believe Iran gave its "blessing" to tanker attacks, which hit two Saudi crude oil tankers, a United Arab Emirates-flagged fuel bunker barge and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker off Fujeirah near the Strait of Hormuz.

Illustrative photo of the USA embassy under construction as seen from across the Tigris river in Baghdad, Iraq, May 19, 2007.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) answers questions after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the foreign ministry in Tokyo on May 16, 2019.

Iran's decision does not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika said in a briefing to the Pentagon "there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces" in the region, according to The Guardian.

But since the first USA warning on May 5, the only activity has been a still-mysterious "attack" Monday on tankers anchored off Fujairah, an Emirati port located at the strategically crucial entrance to the Gulf.

Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they were suspending training of soldiers in Iraq.

Earlier on Wednesday, the ISNA news agency reported that an Iranian atomic energy official said Iran has officially stopped some commitments under the pact, and has no limit from now for production of enriched uranium and heavy water.

Then on Tuesday, reports indicated that the US military was drawing up plans for some 120,000 American troops to be deployed to the Middle East to respond to any Iranian attack or an acceleration of the nation's nuclear program.

Similarly, Germany's foreign affairs committee chair Norbert Rottgen said that German intelligence doesn't align with the U.S. view that a military strike by Iran is soon approaching. "This is exactly why the president doesn't have the constitutional authority to declare war".

Pelosi said Trump has "no business" moving toward a Middle East confrontation without approval from Congress.