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17 May 2019, 08:28 | Glen Norman
US President Donald Trump
In an article published late Tuesday, the editorial board first talked about the possibility that a conflict between the US and Iran would erupt, citing remarks by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who said on Monday that the risk of "accidental" US-Iran war "ends with some kind of conflict".
The embassy said in a May 15 statement that the order applied to employees both at the embassy and at the U.S. Consulate in the northern city of Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.
The United States ordered the departure of non-emergency USA employees from its diplomatic missions in Iraq on Wednesday in another show of concern about alleged threats from Iran.
Recent days have brought allegations of sabotage attacks targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline claimed by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels, and the dispatch of USA warships and bombers to the region.
Helicopters ferried USA staff from the American embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday out of apparent concern about perceived threats from Iran, which US sources believe encouraged Sunday's attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.
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Many traditional U.S. allies are concerned about the threat of yet another conflict in the region.
"There were no assurances from Pompeo", Putin's spokesman told reporters.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, played down the prospect of conflict on Tuesday, saying neither country wanted a war, according to state media. Unnamed U.S. officials told Reuters that Iran encouraged the Houthis or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out the attacks.
Iran called it "psychological warfare", and a British commander cast doubt on US military concerns about threats to its roughly 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, who have been helping local security forces fight ISIS jihadists.
Germany said Wednesday its military suspended training of Iraqi soldiers due to the tensions but stressed there was no indication of any specific threat to its own troops.
On Monday, a United States official said that Iran was a leading candidate for the tanker sabotage, but the United States did not have conclusive proof. It has said it will keep strong ties with Iran, and also with the United States and Arab neighbors, some of whom, such as Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran a rival.
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said previous year that Tehran would block exports through the waterway if countries heeded USA calls to stop buying Iranian oil. "They know that it is not to their benefit".
-Iranian tensions since U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to try to cut off all of Iran's oil exports and to designate its Revolutionary Guards as a "foreign terrorist organization".
On the one-year anniversary of the USA pullout of the nuclear accord, Iran announced it planned to back out of parts of that agreement and pledged to enrich uranium.
Iran recently threatened it might resume higher enrichment by July 7, beyond the level permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers. Though Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, scientists say the time needed to reach the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium is halved once uranium is enriched to around 20%. Satellite images obtained Tuesday by the AP from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies showed no visible damage to the vessels, and Gulf officials have refused to say who they suspected was responsible. "The next steps are easier than this step".
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A Kremlin spokesperson rejected the notion that Putin's schedule was an intentional "message" for the USA administration. If Russia interfered, "it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been", Pompeo said .
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