What’s behind rising US-Iran tensions in the Gulf?

April FrancisMay 18, 2019

The change falls short of the withdrawal from the region of non-essential staff presently taking place for USA forces, with the State Department confirming Wednesday that it had ordered all non-essential staff out of theatre with immediate effect. Today, over 15 years after the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, the Islamic Republic is regarded as a main player in Iraq.

This comes just two days after the top British general in the US -led coalition against ISIS said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad last Tuesday and met with Iraqi officials after voicing US concern about Iraqi sovereignty due to increasing Iranian activity in the region.

"Iran should be aware that it is principally responsible for the instability in the region", Gargash added and demanded that any future nuclear deal had to involve Arab states like his own.

The PMF began as a largely Shiite provisional army built to fight the Islamic State in 2014, but many Iraqi observers believe Iran exercises major influence at these two bases.

Maj Gen Chris Ghika, an Operation Inherent Resolve deputy commander, earlier said he had not seen an increased threat from Iranian proxies.

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Separately, Iran's foreign minister said sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are "unacceptable" but added that his country is committed to an worldwide nuclear deal that has steadily unraveled amid rising tensions. "Neither we nor them (the US) seek war", he said.

"Recent comments from OIR's deputy commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from United States and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region", it said.

Some observers speculate that Tehran is seeking to retaliate over Washington's decision in April to put Iran's Revolutionary Guards on a terror blacklist - a move created to stymie their activities across the Middle East. German defense ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said there was "generally heightened alert, awareness" among soldiers in the region, but gave no specifics.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday predicted that Iran will "soon" want to negotiate and denied any discord in the White House over moves that critics say could lead to war in the Middle East. A Foreign Office spokeswoman declined to immediately comment on the reports. One day later, Pompeo told CNBC that, in the event that Iran chose to target U.S. interests, "we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way".

Last week, Iran notified non-U.S. signatories of the nuclear deal-China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK-of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal.

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