US military build up 'sparked by Iran loading missiles onto small boats' in Persian Gulf

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US military build up 'sparked by Iran loading missiles onto small boats' in Persian GulfThe US military build-up in the Persian Gulf was sparked by photographs showing Iranian Revolutionary Guards loading assembled missiles onto small boats, potentially to be fired at US warships.  The White House announced two weeks ago that it had intelligence Iran was planning attacks in the Middle East and has been increasing US forces in the region and raising overall threat levels since then. The US has not made its intelligence public but the alarm was caused by images showing the missiles being put onto small dhow boats, according to the New York Times.  The missiles had been assembled and US intelligence officials assessed they were meant to be fired from the boats, as opposed to being transported by sea to Iranian proxies in the region. One photograph has been declassified and could be released to the public.   Meanwhile, former US officials and European allies expressed skepticism over the US decision to pull diplomats out of the American embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan in response to threats from Shia militias.  Letters from Jerusalem RHS All “non-emergency” US diplomats are being withdrawn, leaving only a skeleton staff behind.  Brett McGurk, a former diplomat who led the US political effort against the Islamic State (Isil), said it was the first time that such a dramatic draw down of American diplomats had taken place.   “Even when Isil was bearing down on Baghdad in 2014, the US did not trigger ordered departure in light of its serious repercussions,” he said on Twitter.  Until this morning, however, I am not aware of an "ordered departure" EVER being issued for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or Consulate in Erbil. Even when ISIS was bearing down on Baghdad in 2014, the U.S. did not trigger ordered departure in light of its serious repercussions.— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) May 15, 2019 The UK has not followed the American lead and British diplomats remain at their posts in both Baghdad and in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.  Earlier this week, Major General Chris Ghika, a UK officer, said there was no evidence of an increased threat from Iran in either Iraq or Syria. His comments were flatly contradicted by the US military in a rare public sign of discord between the allied armies.  The US so far appears to have failed to convince the UK or other European allies of an urgent threat from Iran. Jeremy Hunt and other European foreign ministers have instead sounded the alarm that the US and Iran could stumble into a war neither side wants.   Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival in the region, meanwhile said it held Iran responsible for a drone attack against Saudi oil facilities carried out by Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The drones struck two oil pumping stations on Tuesday and Saudi-led forces responded with a wave of airstrikes on the Yemeni capital on Thursday. The Houthis claimed the strikes killed six civilians, including four children. Saudi Arabia accuses the Houthis of being Iranian proxies. “The Houthis are indivisible part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and subject to the IRGC’s orders,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, a Saudi foreign minister.  The Houthis claimed responsibility for the drone attack but deny that they are under control of Iran. Most analysts believe Iran provides some funding and arms to the Houthis but they are largely independent.

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