Germany and Netherlands halt training schemes in Iraq as tensions rise

Basic information
Date of placement

Moves follow US embassy in Baghdad ordering all but emergency staff to leave Germany and the Netherlands have suspended their military training programmes in Iraq because of a perceived security threa

Germany and the Netherlands have suspended their military training programmes in Iraq because of a perceived security threat in the wake of rising US-Iranian tensions in the region.

The announcements came after the US embassy in Baghdad ordered all but emergency staff to leave Iraq. No details of the supposed security threat were provided.

A German defence ministry spokesman, Jens Flosdorff, said that by pausing its small-scale training missions north of Baghdad and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Germany was “orienting itself toward our partner countries, which have taken this step”.

However, Flosdorff said the move was not a response to a “concrete threat” but rather to a general security situation being viewed as more tense.

The Dutch public broadcaster, NOS, reported that the country’s 50-strong mission, mostly involved in training Kurdish fighters, had been halted “until further orders”, but quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying he could not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

German and Dutch officials did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday morning. Neither country has followed the US example and withdrawn diplomats from their embassies in Iraq.

In their public pronouncements, European capitals have generally voiced anxiety at the rising US-Iranian tensions, but European diplomats overwhelmingly blame the Donald Trump administration for seeking to provoke a confrontation. US allies have conspicuously avoided echoing US claims of an imminent threat from Iran.

The UK and US military have given strikingly different views of the security situation for coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. The UK defence ministry stood by British Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, who was rebuked by US central command on Tuesday for insisting there was no increased threat from Iranian-aligned militias in the region.

“Maj Gen Ghika speaks as a military officer in the US-led coalition focused on the fight against Daesh [Isis] in Iraq and Syria. His comments are based on the day to day military operations and his sole focus is the enduring defeat of Daesh,” the ministry said in a statement, which did not directly address the question of whether the security threat had increased.

“He made clear in his Pentagon briefing that “there are a range of threats to American and coalition forces in this part of the world. There always have been, that is why we have a very robust range of force protection measures. The UK has long been clear about our concerns over Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region.”

The New York Times on Wednesday quoted an unnamed American official as saying an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” that did not merit the military build-up advocated by the national security adviser, John Bolton. The official said the “ultimate goal of the year-long economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States”, according to the report.

Democrats in Congress have raised similar concerns, pointing to the parallels between the current US actions and the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in which Bolton played a supporting role.

“Iran is and has been for decades a malevolent actor and a state sponsor of terror,” Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, told the Washington Post. “But I’m also gravely concerned about actions taken by the administration that appear calculated to put us on a collision course.”

In recent days there have been sabotage attacks against oil tankers, two of them Saudi-owned, in the Persian Gulf, and Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for drone strikes against Saudi oil installations. The Houthis receive backing from Iran but most experts say they are not directly controlled from Tehran.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted that “no one is seeking war”, but in the same speech he also ruled out negotiations with the US, saying such talks would be “poison” – an apparent response to Trump’s suggestion that the Iranian leadership call him directly.

Khamenei also repeated Iran’s threat to enrich uranium beyond the 3.67% limit agreed in a multilateral nuclear deal in 2015, which Trump abrogated last year, if US does not ease its oil embargo and other sanctions. He made clear Iran could even go beyond its previous boundary of 20% enrichment, beyond which it becomes increasingly easy to attain weapons grade, above 90%.

“Achieving 20% enrichment is the most difficult part,” Khamenei said, according to an Iranian press report. “The next steps are easier than this step.”

Dislike 0
Like 0
Someone is typing...

News list

I agree and close
x We use cookies to measure visitor statistics, personalize ads and customize the functionality of the site. You agree to this by using the website