PanARMENIAN.Net - The United States has pulled some of its government employees out of Iraq, suspended some services at its missions in the country, and warned its nationals about the risk of violence or kidnapping because of an "imminent" threat that is directly tied to Iran on the same day as the chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards warns about all-out confrontation with the US, Rudaw reports.
The US State Department suspended normal visa services at its consulate in Erbil and embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday, May 15, additionally ordering 'non-emergency' government employees to leave.
'The U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil,' read a statement posted by the embassy on Wednesday.
'Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq,' the statement added.
The State Department also increased its travel advisory to the most extreme level, telling people not to travel to Iraq because of the risk or "terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict," on Wednesday.
"U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad," the State Department warned.
Hundreds of US citizens live in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and some 5,000 American troops are stationed at Iraqi bases at the invitation of Baghdad.
The evacuation order was issued because of an "imminent" threat that was directly linked to Iran, AFP reported, citing senior State Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
'It is directly linked to Iran, multiple threat streams directly linked to Iran,' said one official.
'This is an imminent threat to our personnel,' said a second official. 'This threat stream, let me tell you, is real... It';s IRGC-commanded and controlled Iraqi militias.'
Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, the new head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said today that Iran is reaching the apex of an all-out confrontation with the United States that is exerting maximum pressure in an attempt to shake Iran's resolve.
"This stage of history is considered the most fateful stage of the Islamic revolution because the enemy has stepped into the confrontation theatre with us using all its capabilities," he said, Tasnim news reported.
Iran backs elements within Iraq's influential Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which officially are answerable to the prime minister, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said on Tuesday that they have no seen movement that could be deemed threatening.
Germany and the Netherlands have temporarily suspended their military training missions in Iraq because of the reports of increased threats. France has no plans to follow suit, Reuters reported.
Tensions have been ratcheting up daily between the US and Iran over the past week and a half, one year after Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a severe sanctions regime. Citing unspecified threats against US personnel in the region, the Pentagon deployed military resources, including an aircraft carrier, to the Middle East. Tehran, with its economy crippled under sanctions, announced it was scaling back on its commitments under the nuclear agreement.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, however, has ruled out war or talks with the United States. US President Donald Trump is hopeful though that he can open a channel with Tehran. 'I';m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,' he tweeted on Wednesday.