Monday, 27 May, 2019

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

US President Donald Trump US President Donald Trump
Steven Clarke | 18 May, 2019, 04:26

On Tuesday, Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels launched a coordinated drone attack on a critical oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, Tehran's biggest rival in the region.

Hunt said he had discussed Iran with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week in London, and again in Brussels on Monday.

United States moves to build up their military presence around Iran continue, and officials try to justify that with spurious claims of Iranian plots to attack.

A few days later, as U.S. The parallels between the invasion of Iraq and the Iran situation are uncanny: Fearing weapons of mass destruction, the USA ramps up pressure on its long-time enemy, a repressive Middle Eastern regime. No country has been more affected by the U.S. -Iran battle than Iraq though, and its predicament deserves Washington's full attention, if for no other reason than U.S. interests.

Washington has slapped sanctions on Iranian industrial metals and oil - the country's two largest sources of export revenue. Pompeo's message, the officials said, was that the USA wants to avoid conflict but would respond or defend itself if necessary.

Tensions in the region have risen sharply in recent weeks as USA sanctions on Iran, reimposed gradually in the wake of the USA withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal past year, began to take their toll, pushing the Iranian economy into crisis.

Clashes between Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition forces in the port city of Hodeidah broke out on Wednesday despite what the United Nations said had been a successful implementation of a Houthi withdrawal deal earlier in the week.

Iran must halt all enrichment of uranium, swear never to produce plutonium, shut down its heavy water reactor, open up its military bases to inspection to prove it never had a secret nuclear program and stop testing missiles.

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The move was instigated by reports that Iran-backed militias were apparently moving their rockets near USA bases in Iraq. Officially, these militias are on the same side as the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in fighting to defeat ISIS.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen took responsibility for the action, which they said was in retaliation for the continuation of the near-genocidal US-backed war waged by Saudi Arabia against Yemen, which has killed some 80,000 civilians and brought 10 million to the brink of starvation. Military action by the USA may topple the Iranian regime, but as the Iraq War demonstrated, that's hardly a victory.

One witness told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) he heard a loud explosion in the heart of Sanaa.

Iran must abandon all its allies in the Middle East - Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza - pull all forces under Iranian command out of Syria, and then disarm all its Shiite militia in Iraq.

Early Wednesday, the State Department announced it was withdrawing all non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in Erbil "given the current security conditions", but did not detail the nature of any threat.

The chairmen of Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees in the U.S. House of Representatives - all Democrats - asked Pompeo in a letter to provide a State Department briefing and documents no later than May 23.

Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they were suspending training of soldiers in Iraq; German defense ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said there was "generally heightened alert, awareness" among soldiers in the region, but gave no specifics.

"This is a pin-prick event, a little needle-like jab at the maritime trade going into the Strait of Hormuz", said Gerry Northwood, chairman of risk management and security firm MAST. Calling thesituation 'very unsafe, King said, 'We may be moving toward a militaryconfrontation that would be very harmful.

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