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

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

A state department spokesman said: "Ensuring the safety of USA government personnel and citizens is our highest priority and we are confident in the Iraqi security services' [ability] to protect us".

The governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Norway are notifying the United Nations that four commercial ships were targeted and at least three of them were damaged in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates on May 12. The hypothetical plan would reportedly be implemented if Tehran speeds up its nuclear weapons program - or in the event American troops are attacked by Iran.

The Department of State has ordered the pullout of employees from both the US Embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil, the embassy says in a statement. "Taking us into a war without Congressional authorization would be unconstitutional and illegal".

Why have US-Iran tensions escalated?

Netanyahu made his plea Tuesday, during an event marking the one-year anniversary of Israel's U.S. Embassy moving to Jerusalem.

"Ensuring the safety of USA government personnel and citizens is our highest priority. and we want to reduce the risk of harm", a State Department spokesperson said. "That's Congress's job - and that's why I'm supporting this legislation to prevent a war with Iran".

But a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command later disputed Gen Ghika's comments, saying they ran "counter" to the credible threats identified by United States and allied intelligence agencies.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee said, "The people inside the administration who are trying to start a war know that if they have this conversation in an open and transparent way, there will be very substantial pushback from both parties and both houses of Congress".

Pelosi warned that the administration can not rely on the most recent use-of-force authorization approved by Congress almost 20 years ago for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran, for its part, has designated all U.S. troops stationed in the region as terrorists.

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.

"We are very anxious about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels. Washington did not publicly provide any evidence to back up claims of an increased threat from Tehran. The joint statement by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Norway does not say who they suspect was responsible.

The Trump administration recently declined to renew waivers from US sanctions to major importers of Iranian oil as part of an effort to force Teheran to negotiate on ceasing a range of activities, including its nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as supporting terrorists and militants across the region. A satellite image obtained by The Associated Press shows one of the two pumping stations attacked by the drones apparently intact.

"There is absolutely no desire or interest in a military conflict with anybody", the official said.

The state-controlled oil company Saudi Aramco said it temporarily closed the pipeline as a precaution.

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