Simple precautions or plan to attack? What’s behind US & Germany’s recent moves in Mideast
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Germany and the Netherlands halted training of Iraqi troops hours after the US said it will partially evacuate its Baghdad embassy. Amid growing tensions with Iran, analysts offered differing views on the reasons behind the moves.
Washington announced the partial evacuation of its embassy in Baghdad as well as a consulate in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on Wednesday, citing heightened tension in the region. Hours later, Germany and the Netherlands suspended their missions to train Iraqi troops. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier warned that “Iranian activities” endanger American sites and soldiers stationed in the country.
Are the latest moves a sign that the US is preparing for military action against Iran, are they just a precaution, or do they signal something about a shift in the security situation on the ground in Iraq?
‘Preparing for instability’
The recent actions are likely an indication that the US administration is expecting some kind of destabilization in the region, Ted Seay, a former US diplomat and senior policy consultant at the British American Security Information Council told RT.
“The only time the US government ever evacuates diplomatic personnel is because they expect instability, violence, or warfare,” he said, adding that the US does not take this kind of action unless it’s “very serious about the situation that’s unfolding.”
Seay said the timing of the evacuation was interesting, given Pompeo had recently “made nice noises” about the Iraqi authorities and their ability to keep US personnel safe in the country.
“Unfortunately I think the evacuation speaks far more clearly than the Secretary of State when it comes to the situation in Iraq,” he said.
‘Just being cautious’
But military analyst Kamal Amal believes that by pulling its embassy staff, Washington is “just being cautious,” as the White House fears that the sanctions and the economic crisis in Iran may force the nation to “retaliate physically.” He said such a mindset and behavior is not surprising because the US and Iran have been waging “a proxy war for over a decade.”
The threats the US is allegedly facing from Iran, he said, are “based on little intelligence,” however, and it would be “very unlikely for Iran to actually do anything against the US.”
Amal also said it was difficult to follow Washington’s strategy as there is “no one policy” and seems to be a “contradiction every week.” While Pompeo might say something one week, the White House and Pentagon might say something different the next.
‘Lack of confidence in Iraq’
The US decision to remove embassy staff could also reflect, to a certain extent a “lack of confidence” in its Iraqi allies, Ammar Waqqaf, who heads the Middle East-focused think tank Gnosos, told RT.
“There is no hiding that the current Iraqi leadership and the majority of the parliament are sympathetic to interests of Iran. Iran has a great influence in Iraq, obviously.”
The embassy move “may be the prelude to more deployment of US forces in the region, just as we’ve seen recently with them sending an aircraft carrier [to the Persian Gulf],” Waqqaf said.
Still, there is nothing major happening on the ground in Iraq itself that seemed to precipitate the embassy move, he added.
‘Creating a justification’
Udo Steinbach, former director of the German Institute for Middle East Studies and honorary professor at the University of Hamburg said Germany, which has halted its training of Iraqi soldiers amid the worsening tensions, is likely to be very cautious about following the US line on Iran and is unlikely to take “any measure which would have a negative impact on the climate between the EU and Iran and between Germany and Iran in particular.”
As for the evacuation of US embassy staff and the cutoff of military assistance programs, Steinbach said it could mean the US is preparing to create a “an excuse or justification” for some new military action in the future.
While there remains no diplomatic deal between the US and Iran on the table, “one has to be prepared that the Americans are preparing for military attack,” Steinbach said. Although “whether they will start it themselves or they will create some sort of excuse or justification” by “simulating an attack” against American installations remains unclear.
In any case, he said, the situation remains “extremely dangerous.”
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