US State Department orders all non-essential government personnel to leave Iraq

US National Security Advisor John Bolton insists Iran is planning to attack US assets in the Middle East

US National Security Advisor John Bolton insists Iran is planning to attack US assets in the Middle East Credit JIM LO SCALZO EPA-EFE REX

The evacuation order, also covering the U.S. consulate in Arbil, came 10 days after the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier task force and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to fend off an unspecified plot by Tehran to attack United States forces or allies.

What is the alleged Iran threat?

Pompeo told reporters he had made his trip because Iranian forces are "escalating their activity" and said the threat of attacks was "very specific". A Wednesday New York Times report said the intelligence was overhead images of Iranian troops loading missiles on small sailboats. Amid rising tensions with Iran, Bolton said the decision was "in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings". A spokesman would not comment on the threat level specifically but added: "We keep the security of our deployed personnel and assets under constant review".

The move comes a day after all non-essential American personnel were ordered to leave the Iraq Embassy and consulate amid claims that Iran-backed militias moved missiles near bases housing USA forces. "If (the administration) were contemplating military action with Iran, it must come to Congress to seek approval", he said.

Have there been any incidents?

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But what caused the relatively minor damage to the vessels and who was behind it remains unknown.

And he maintains that the U.S. wants to stop Iran from constructing a nuclear weapon. It is believed tensions between Iran and the United States were a "hot topic" in Tuesday's National Security Council meeting.

"There is no infighting whatsoever", Trump tweeted.

Both the United States and Iran stated they don't want war, but the IRGC commander said on May 15 that it was "on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy", the Iranian Fars news agency reported.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday predicted that Iran will "soon" want to negotiate and denied any discord in the White House over moves that critics say could lead to war in the Middle East.

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Iraq is one of the only countries that has close relations with both the United States and Iran. "Neither we nor them (the US) seek war", he said.

Washington's European allies have kept their distance, calling for calm and expressing concern over military escalation.

Trump quit the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and gradually reimposed sanctions on the country.

His visit came after Washington announced the deployment of an aircraft-carrier battle group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, which US official said was in response to threats from Iran to the interests of the United States or its allies in the region.

Germany's Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that it is suspending military training operations in Iraq due to increasing regional tensions.

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