by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2019
In the latest of a series of U.S. announcements over the past week, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said the State Department on May 15 ordered all “nonemergency” government employees to leave Iraq amid growing tensions with Iran.
The State Department also issued a revised travel advisory saying, “Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.”
The alerts and warnings have been based on “specific” intelligence concerning “imminent” threats, but other than reports of attacks on Saudi oil tankers and pipelines there have been no overt actions to justify alarm.
“Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians,” the State Department said. “Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq.”
Iran backs several Shi’ite militia groups in Iraq.
Earlier, the United States said it had deployed an aircraft carrier strike group which includes nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf after “very specific” intelligence of an “imminent” attack in the region.
Such intelligence included a warning from Israel’s Mossad spy agency that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was planning an attack on American vessels and bases in the Persian Gulf region, Geostrategy-Direct reported on May 14.
Citing the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), the report noted that Iran could target U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers. It also cited a threat by a senior Iranian cleric who said a U.S. Navy fleet could be “destroyed with one missile.”
Iran’s economy has been hit hard since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions last year.
Geostrategy-Direct reported that, in a nationally televised speech on May 8, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave the five remaining signatories of the nuclear deal 60 days to move to protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors or the Islamic Republic will resume high-level enrichment of uranium.
Rouhani delivered the ultimatum to Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia in an address aired on Iranian state television.
On May 6, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that he approved the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a U.S. Air Force bomber task force to the Middle East because of “indications of a credible threat” by Iran.
On May 7, U.S. Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban said there were “indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.”
Shanahan approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official told Reuters on May 11.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Iran as a growing regional threat during an unannounced visit to Iraq last week, where he underscored U.S. warnings to Teheran while offering support to allied officials in Baghdad, the Wall Street Journal reported.