USA pulls 'non-emergency staff' from Iraq as Iran tensions mount

US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump reinstated the sanctions a year ago after abandoning a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. He went on to say that negotiations with the western nation are "poison" until the nation "comes to its senses'".

The aircraft carrier strike group is being deployed to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran.

-Iranian tension following Washington's decision this month to try to cut Iran's oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.

Sen. Mitt Romney rejected suggestions that President Donald Trump was eyeing a war with Iran after reports that the White House was considering sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran escalates its nuclear weapons program or attacks USA soldiers or interests.

United States officials have not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat.

Opponents of Trump say that hardliners led by national security advisor John Bolton, who has long advocated toppling the Iranian government, are pushing the country into war. A US official previously said all four ships sustained damage at or below their waterlines.

Four tankers off the UAE coast appear to have been sabotaged on Sunday night, but it is not clear if the incidents were connected.

Mr Trump's administration has pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran, including tightening economic sanctions, since withdrawing the USA from a deal created to limit Iran's nuclear program previous year.

The Netherlands and Germany have also reportedly said they are suspending military activity in Iraq due to security concerns.

But a senior British officer in the US-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group appeared to push back against the USA claims, telling reporters earlier in the week that there'd been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. Maj.

"This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war", he assured officials. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday came out forcefully against the Trump administration angling the United States into another costly and unnecessary war of choice in the Middle East-this time against Iran-delivering an online address in which he warned that any military action without approval from Congress would be an "unconstitutional and illegal" breach of office.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told media on May 6 that "it is absolutely the case that we've seen escalatory action from the Iranians", but he also said he couldn't be more explicit.

But Russia, a major backer of Tehran, expressed concern Wednesday that Pompeo's assurances had not quelled the crisis.

The Trump administration recently declined to renew waivers from US sanctions to major importers of Iranian oil as part of an effort to force Teheran to negotiate on ceasing a range of activities, including its nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as supporting terrorists and militants across the region.

Headlines this week might make you think President Trump is itching for war with Iran. But Iran has threatened that unless the world powers protect Iran's economy from US sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium at a higher level.

Pelosi said Trump has "no business" moving toward a Middle East confrontation without approval from Congress.

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