US and European countries scale back presence in Iraq amid Iran tensions

A German military advisor at the military camp of Mirra on the outskirts of Erbil, northern Iraq. (AFP/ File photo)
Updated 16 May 2019
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US and European countries scale back presence in Iraq amid Iran tensions

  • US orders departure of “non-emergency government employees”
  • Germany is suspending military training operations in Iraq due to increasing regional tensions

ERBIL: The US State Department on Wednesday ordered the departure of “non-emergency government employees” from Iraq, the US embassy in Baghdad said in a statement.
Referring to the embassy and the US consulate in Erbil, it said “normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq.”
The statement recommended those affected “depart by commercial transportation as soon as possible.”

The US embassies in Lebanon, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates also warned American citizens of heightened tensions in the region amid escalation with Iran.
In advisories issued Wednesday, the embassies advised Americans to maintain a "high level of vigilance" and keep a low profile. The embassy in the central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, on Iran's northeast borders, issued similar warnings.

Meanwhile, Germany is suspending military training operations in Iraq due to increasing regional tensions, a spokesman for the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.
Germany has indications of potential attacks supported by Iran, he said, adding that this did not mean the training programmes could not resume in the coming days.
Focus Online said the decision had been taken in coordination with partner countries fighting Daesh in the region.

The Dutch government also suspended a mission in Iraq that provides assistance to local authorities due to a security threat, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Wednesday.
Dutch military personal help train Iraqi forces in Erbil, northern Iraq, along with other foreign troops.
The report gave no details about the nature of the threat.

 


Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

Updated 50 min 54 sec ago
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Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

  • ‘We are trying to help and to be mediators’
  • The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers

BAGHDAD: Iraq offered to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed Al-Hakim, made the offer Sunday during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said Al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Arabian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.
The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both US regional bases and Israel.
Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the US pullout.
Speaking about the rising tensions with the US, Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.
The mediation offer by Al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad Al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.
“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” Al-Hakim said.