Iraq walks Iran-US tightrope as tensions escalate
State Department officials have cited an “imminent” threat to US personnel from Iraqi Shiite militias with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The Trump administration labeled the IRGC a terrorist group last month despite warnings that the move could endanger US personnel in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Iran subsequently labeled US Central Command, which overseas US military operations in the Middle East, a terrorist organization.
Read more: Iran’s military power: What you need to know
Wednesday’s evacuation order comes amid international concern a major conflict could erupt, with Iran resisting the United States’ “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
Over the past few weeks, the US has made several provocative moves that could be perceived by Iran as a potential imminent military threat at a time when the US has engaged in economic warfare.
Read more: US military flare-up ‘would be a godsend to Iran hard-liners’
In early May, Trump’s hawkish US national security adviser, John Bolton, made a show of an already scheduled US aircraft carrier group deployment to the Persian Gulf and announced a B-52 bomber force would be sent to the region.
Days later, the Pentagon added a Patriot missile defense battery and an amphibious assault ship to the deployment. The New York Times reported the Trump administration has considered plans to preposition 120,000 troops in the region.