State Department Orders Non-Essential Personnel To Leave Iraq Amid Escalating Tensions With Iran
WASHINGTON D.C. May 15th, 2019. The U.S. has issued orders for the immediate departure of all “non-emergency government employees” to leave Iraq by commercial transport due to rising tensions between Iran and the United States.
Al Jazeera reports “On Tuesday, US Central Command warned in a statement that Iranian-backed forces presented "credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq”, without disclosing further details”.
Last month, President Trump blacklisted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an infantry division of the Iranian military, as a terrorist organization. Last week, Iran gave a 60-day ultimatum for Europe to enforce its end of the 2015 nuclear treaty, which the United States has long since pulled out of, to protect Iranian banking and oil interests against aggressive new American sanctions.
Since then, The Trump Administration ordered an aircraft carrier, transporting a number of B-52 bombers and a patriot missile battery into the Persian Gulf as a precaution against what U.S. officials have said to be a threat to U.S. personnel in the region.
On Monday, 4 oil tankers at the port of Fujairah, UAE, were damaged in what Emirati officials described as “acts of sabotage”. Two belonged to Saudi Arabia, one to Norway, and the other was Emirati.
Iran’s foreign minister, Zavad Zarif, tweeted on Tuesday he predicted in April that incidents that could worsen the situation would be carried out by American proxies, while anonymous US military and intelligence staff accused Iran of the same thing.
Mr. Zarif was questioned about the incident during a meeting with the Indian foreign minister.
“We raised concerns over the suspicious activities and sabotage that are happening in our region. We had formerly anticipated that they would carry out these sorts of activities to escalate tension,” he said.
Some time later, Arab and UAE officials claimed Iran, their mortal enemies, were behind the sabotage. In 2010, Sec. of Defense to the Obama Administration, Robert Gates, wrote in a cable that the Saudis are always willing to “fight Iran to the last American,” and likely see this incident as the perfect casus belli.
The State Department has advised against all travel to Iraq. "Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq," the State Department said, referring to the embassy and the US consulate in Erbil.
Germany and the Netherlands have also recalled over 200 military personnel from Iraq; kept there for purposes of training local military and police forces.
However, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made assurances that there would be no war, no matter what incidents occur and how high the tension mounts between the two nuclear powers.
Trump seems slightly less-eager to challenge Iranian influence in the region when compared to National Security Adviser, John Bolton.
According to a report by the New York Times, half a dozen national security officials, under the curtain of anonymity, shared details of a meeting held last Thursday, where senior defense and intelligence officials, that included John Bolton, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, and Chairman of the Join Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, discussed a plan to send 120,00 troops to Iraq and other middle-eastern bases In case Iran makes any aggressive moves in the region.
Trump denied this meeting ever took place, calling it “fake news,” and admitted that he hoped “We won’t have to plan for that”.