London: Britain has raised the threat level for military forces and diplomats in Iraq because of a heightened security risk from Iran, Sky News said on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office declined to immediately comment on the report.
Britain also put its personnel and their families in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar on an increased state of alert, Sky said.
The move comes one day after the US on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, and Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programmes in the country in the latest sign of tensions sweeping the Gulf region over still-unspecified threats that the Trump administration says are linked to Iran.
Recent days have seen allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack by Yemen’s Iranian-allied Al Houthi miltants, and the dispatch of US warships and bombers to the region.
At the root of this appears to be President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran.
In response, Iran’s supreme leader issued a veiled threat Tuesday, saying it wouldn’t be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.
An alert on the website of the US Embassy in Baghdad said all nonessential, nonemergency US government staff were ordered to leave Iraq right away under State Department orders.
That includes those working at the US Consulate in Irbil. The US Consulate in Basra has been closed since September following a rocket attack blamed on Iranian-backed militias.
The US in recent days has ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf region, plus four B-52 bombers.
Germany’s military said it was suspending training of Iraqi soldiers due to the tensions, although there was no specific threat to its own troops in Iraq.
Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said Germany was “orienting itself toward our partner countries” though there are “no concrete warnings of attacks against German targets.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer expressed concern over the tensions and said it welcomes “any measure that is aimed at a peaceful solution.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said the German government has not reduced its embassy staff in Iraq or Iran.
In the Netherlands, state broadcaster NOS said its 50-person military mission in Iraq was halted “until further orders,” quoting a Defense Ministry spokesman as saying he couldn’t elaborate on the threats.
It said the Dutch forces primarily train Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State militants.