Germany, Netherlands suspend mission after US pulls personnel from Iraq over Iran threat - GulfToday

Germany, Netherlands suspend mission after US pulls personnel from Iraq over Iran threat

Iraq-US

Iraqi army 20th division soldiers check the ID of a man during a raid in Badoush, Iraq. File

The US State Department on Wednesday ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Arbil, as tensions mount between the United States and Iraq's neighbour Iran.

Washington has ramped up pressure on Tehran in recent days, accusing Iran of planning "imminent" attacks in the region, and bolstering the American military presence in the Gulf.

"Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians," a travel advisory warned.

"Anti-US sectarian militias may also threaten US citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq."

The Dutch government has 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.

The German government has expressed concern about the tensions in the Mideast between the U.S. and Iran, warning of a military escalation and saying it supports all measures for a peaceful solution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said on Wednesday that, "obviously, we are watching the increasing tensions in the region with big concern and welcome any measure that is aimed at a peaceful solution."

The German government says the country's military has suspended training of Iraqi soldiers due to tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran but has no indication of any specific threat to its own troops.

The Kremlin's spokesman says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn't offer President Vladimir Putin any reassurances or ease Moscow's concerns over the ongoing crisis between the United States and Iran.

Pompeo met with Putin on Tuesday in Russia's resort of Sochi where he sought to alleviate some of the concerns about the spiraling tensions but made clear the U.S. would respond to any attacks on American targets.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow is concerned over mounting tensions and defended Iran's actions as a legitimate response to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has given European countries a 60-day deadline to negotiate a new nuclear deal Tehran or it would start enriching uranium to higher levels than outlined in the current agreement.

ran's supreme leader claims that enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels would not be a difficult task for the country - the latest threats from Tehran as tensions roil the region amid the unraveling of the nuclear deal.

State-owned IRAN daily quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as telling a group of officials during a meeting on Tuesday night that "achieving 20 percent enrichment is the most difficult part. The next steps are easier than this step."

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the 3.67% permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers. The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year.