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
0

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.

 


UAE says joint probe into tanker attack ensures impartiality

Updated 22 May 2019
0

UAE says joint probe into tanker attack ensures impartiality

  • UAE says international participation in an investigation into ‘sabotage attacks’ on oil tankers will lead to ‘impartial conclusions’
  • It also indicated the results may take time

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that the participation of several countries in an investigation into last week’s attack on oil tankers off its coast would support the “impartiality and transparency” of the findings.
The Gulf Arab state has not yet blamed anyone for the acts of sabotage on four vessels including two Saudi oil tankers, but a senior UAE official has said Abu Dhabi was concerned about Iranian behavior in the region.
“The keenness of our international partners to participate in the investigation and the concerted efforts support the impartiality and transparency in arriving at results,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement carried on state news agency WAM.
US government sources told Reuters they believe Iran encouraged Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia or Iraq-based militias to carry out the operation.
Tehran has distanced itself from the attack, which comes as Iran and the United States spar over sanctions and the US military presence in the Gulf region.
The UAE foreign ministry statement welcomed the participation of several “friendly and brotherly” countries in the investigation, but did not name them. It did not give a timeframe, saying the probe would take “the time required.”
UAE officials have said that the United States and France, which has a naval base in Abu Dhabi, were participating in the investigation as well as Saudi Arabia and Norway.
A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker and a UAE fuel bunker barge were among the vessels hit near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has said Abu Dhabi would show restraint after the attack and that it was committed to de-escalation during what he described as a “difficult situation” caused by Iranian behavior in the region.
Saudi Arabia has called for emergency Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30 to discuss the implications of the tanker attack and an armed drone strike two days later on Saudi oil installations in the Kingdom, for which the Houthis have claimed responsibility.