BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Germany said on Wednesday it is keeping the number of staff at its embassy and consulate in Iraq constant after Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency government employees from Iraq.
A senior British military official also told reporters at the Pentagon that he had seen no increased risk after U.S. expressions of concern about threats from Iranian-backed forces.
A German foreign ministry spokeswoman said the German Embassy in Baghdad was fully staffed and working even as the country’s defense ministry said earlier on Wednesday that training operations by German armed forces in Iraq had been suspended.
A defense ministry spokesman said Germany has no indications of its own of attacks, adding that training programs could resume in the coming days.
Focus Online said the decision had been taken in coordination with partner countries fighting Daesh in the region.
The assessment echoed remarks by British official Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika who is the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition allegedly fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
A few hours later, the United States Central Command issued an unusual rebuke, saying Ghika’s remarks run "counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region”.
The rare public dispute highlights a central problem for the Trump administration as it seeks to rally allies and global opinion against Iran.
Spain on Tuesday withdrew a frigate from a U.S.-led naval group in the Persian Gulf because it was now focusing on Iran rather than an agreed objective to mark an historic seafaring anniversary, the Spanish government said.
"The U.S. government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy,” acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles told reporters in Brussels.
On Wednesday, the State Department ordered partial evacuations of the American embassy and a consulate in Iraq, despite skepticism from Iraqi officials over American intelligence showing a heightened risk.
One American official told the New York Times that the new intelligence of an alleged Iranian threat was "small stuff” and did not merit the military planning being driven by hawkish national security adviser John Bolton.
Reuters on Wednesday quoted what it called Iraqi security sources as saying U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Iraq’s top brass during his surprise visit to Baghdad this month to keep the country’s militias in check. If not, the U.S. would respond with force.
Pompeo said "if the U.S. were attacked on Iraqi soil, it would take action to defend itself without coordinating with Baghdad,” the news agency reported.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Tuesday told reporters that Baghdad had not observed "movements that constitute a threat to any side. We clarified that to the Americans - the government is doing its duty to protect all parties”.
The paramilitaries are formally part of Iraq’s security forces after playing a crucial role in defeating Daesh terrorists.
They are opposed to the U.S. military presence and have a close tap on the movements of American troops in Iraq.
The leader of a powerful Iraqi militia group in February accused the United States for propping up the Daesh terrorist outfit in order to extend the stay of American troops in Iraq.
Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, said Washington looks at its own interests in Iraq before deciding whether to destroy Daesh or help it recover from the many defeats it has suffered in recent months.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made similar claims the same month, saying Washington intentionally allowed the Takfiri terror outfit to gain power in Iraq so that Washington could creep back into the Arab country.
Earlier this month, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar claimed that the notorious U.S. mercenary firm Blackwater had returned to Iraq and was training defeated Daesh terrorists at a base near Baghdad.