Tensions rise over Iran?

There are fears that war could be on the horizon

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Are tensions rising between the US and Iran?

By Joe Harker

The US has ordered all "non-emergency" staff to withdraw from Iraq as the international community fears it is a sign of a coming war with neighboring Iran.

Staff at the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil have been instructed to leave the country as soon as possible.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Iranian supported paramilitaries were setting up rockets near areas where US troops were being housed.

The Claim:

Pompeo claimed the US was not seeking war with Iran despite tensions between the countries growing rapidly in recent months.

Last week the US deployed planes and ships to the Gulf and the US reiterated its position that it would "respond in an appropriate fashion" if their interested were attacked.

Further concerns that the US is about to trigger a conflict are shared by Spain. Spanish warship Mendez Nunez had been accompanying a US Navy strike group in the Gulf for exercises but the ship was recalled with Spain saying it didn't want to get dragged into a conflict.

Major General Chris Ghika, deputy commander of the of the operations against Islamic State, said there had not been an increase in the threat posed by Iranian backed groups operating in Iraq and Syria.

The British General was rebuked by US Central Command, who insisted "credible threats" were on the rise in the region. Despite this other US allies are also skeptical that the threat level is rising.

The Counter Claim:

The Iranian ambassador to the UK argued that the US was preparing for war against Iran through alliances in the Middle East and a more hawkish government.

Robin Wright of the New Yorker questioned whether the US is going to start a war soon, writing that the nation has a reputation for provoking conflict based on flimsy reasons.

Citing historical examples in Iraq and Libya, Wright reports that many countries wonder whether heightened tensions between the US and Iran is the prologue to another conflict. If they are then these are the opening moves before hostility.

If the US does go to war with Iran then national security adviser John Bolton would appear to be the man pushing for the conflict. NBC reports that the Iranian government believes Bolton to be advocating for a war.

Bolton was one of the key figures who pushed for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and many critics believe conflict in Iran could be even more unpopular and disastrous.

The Facts:

US president Donald Trump dismissed reports claiming that the US was ready to station 120,000 troops on the Iranian border but insisted that he would "absolutely" send troops if the situation demanded it and much more than the quoted figure.

The Economist reports that much of the tension between Iran and the US has come from posturing after the breakdown of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal between the US, UK, China, Russia, France, Germany and Iran with the backing of the EU.

The treaty saw Iran agree to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 per cent and only enrich uranium up to 3.67 per cent, well below the levels needed to build a nuclear bomb. It also guaranteed international access to Iranian nuclear facilities in exchange for relief from the US and EU.

Agreed in 2015 during Barack Obama's administration, Trump declared a year ago he was withdrawing from the treaty, describing it as "the worst deal ever negotiated". Iran responded by announcing it would not be complying to certain parts of the treaty from then on.

US sanctions have cut off Iran from the rest of the world economically and diplomatically but it has only served to fuel anti-US sentiment rather than force them to the negotiating table.

On May 8 Iranian president Hassan Rouhani gave the treaty's other signatories 60 days to relieve the pressure brought on by US sanctions.

Former US diplomat Wendy Sherman, who helped negotiate the treaty, said Trump likely didn't want a war but didn't understand the "escalatory cycle" Bolton had started and predicted that the threat of war was growing every day.

About a fifth of the world's oil supply flows through the Persian Gulf, the sea on Iran's south coast.

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