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National security advisor John Bolton listens to President Donald Trump talk to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington on Feb. 12.

National security advisor John Bolton listens to President Donald Trump talk to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington on Feb. 12. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Trump Administration Orders Diplomatic Staff Out of Iraq in Latest Move to Cement Narrative of Iranian Threat

Development comes as EU calls for "maximum restraint."

Andrea Germanos

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that it ordered its "non-emergency" staff out of Iraq.

The alert from the department says that the evacuation order affects staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, who are instructed to "depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible."

The development is the latest salvo by the Trump administration hawks beating drums for war with Iran.

President Donald Trump reportedly recently reviewed a plan from national security advisor John Bolton to threaten Iran by bending 120,000 troops to Middle East; the U.S. this week accused Iran, sans evidence, for reported attacks on Saudi and UAE oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz; and Bolton said last week that a scheduled deployment of a bomber task force was meant to send a threat of "unrelenting force" to Iran.

The administration's narrative that there are "identified credible threats" from Iran in Iraq and Syria is not getting global buy-in.

British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, speaking from Baghdad, said Tuesday that "there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces" in the region.

"More aggressive moves," however, have been taken—but not by Iran. The New York Times reported:

Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington—where John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has prodded President Trump into backing Iran into a corner. [...]

Since May 2018, the Trump administration has withdrawn from the major powers agreement that curbed Iran's nuclear program, reimposed punishing sanctions on Tehran, demanded that allies choose between Iranian oil and doing business in the American market, and declared the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.

E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday that the message Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was delivered in Brussels this week was that "the most responsible attitude to take is, and we believe should be, that of maximum restraint and avoiding any escalation on a military side."

Trump, however, suggested "restraint" was not on the agenda.

Speaking to reporters Monday, the president said, "I'm hearing little stories about Iran. If they do anything they will suffer greatly."

Heidi Hess, co-director of progressive advocacy network CREDO Action, said that the adminstration's stoking of tensions should be met with congressional action.

"Donald Trump is marching the United States toward war in Iran to distract from his mounting scandals and failed administration," she said.

"Congress must assert its authority as the only body empowered to declare war," Hess added, "and prevent Trump from entangling our nation in another endless conflict overseas."


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