Germany suspends Iraq training mission as US pulls out diplomatic staff

15/5/2019 15:09:00

Germany's Bundeswehr has halted its military training exercises in Iraq amid heightened tensions in the region. The US has put troops on high alert and removed nonemergency diplomatic staff from Baghdad and Erbil.


The German army has suspended its training operations in Iraq as regional tension grows, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.


Berlin received indications of potential attacks supported by Iran, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said, adding that the training program could resume in the future and that there were no specific threats to German troops.


Germany has some 60 soldiers stationed north of Bagdad to train Iraq security forces as well as 100 more troops in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. Germany's decision to call a stop to the training missions follows steps from Washington to put US troops on high alert and remove some diplomatic staff.


The US Embassy in Bagdad said on Wednesday it was moving nonemergency personnel out of Iraq, with the staff serving in the Erbil consulate also ordered to leave, the embassy. The move comes as US boosts its military presence in the region amid rapidly escalating tensions with Iran.


The US urged its embassy employees to leave Iraq "as soon as possible." Separately, US State Department warned of "anti-US sectarian militias" active in the Middle Eastern state.


The partial pullout comes a day after the US Central Command placed its troops in Iraq and Syria on high alert over "credible threats" from Iranian forces.


UK general disputes threat level


Washington has ramped up aggressive rhetoric against Iran since US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the internationally backed nuclear deal last year. Although US officials repeatedly stated that they do not want a war with Iran, the US has recently deployed an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf and started flying B-52 bombers to "deterrence missions" in the region.


According to the Pentagon, deployment of the strategic bombers is a response to plans of "Iranian and Iranian proxy forces" to attack US troops.


The US military also responded harshly to remarks made by UK General Chris Chika, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" milita, who said there was "no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria."


Khamenei hints at uranium enrichment


In Tehran, the Iranian government officially stopped some of the commitments it pledged to under the 2015 nuclear deal. Specifically, it said Iran is no longer pledged to keep its national stock of enriched uranium below 300 kilograms (661 pounds) and heavy water below 130 tons.


The nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said neither Iran nor the US is "seeking war." At the same time, Iran has threatened to start enriching uranium to higher levels than in the current deal, if the UK, Germany, and France did not provide a new deal to offset reimposed US sanctions within a 60 days deadline. The deal currently allows Iran to enrich uranium up to 3.67%, a far cry from 90% needed to weaponize the material.


In remarks published by the state-run "IRAN" newspaper on Wednesday, Khamenei said that "achieving 20% enrichment is the most difficult part."


"The next steps are easier than this step," Iran's top cleric told a group of Iranian officials.






PUKmedia / DW


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