Iran will defeat the US-Israeli alliance, vows defence chief
Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance, Iranian defence minister Amir Hatami said yesterday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
"We will defeat the American-Zionist front," he said.
"Iran has the highest level of defence-military preparedness to confront any type of threat and excessive demands."
The United States has sent further military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
Iran does not want a war in the region, the official said.
Yesterday, Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency government employees from Iraq, after repeated US expressions of concern about threats from Iranian-backed forces.
The US state department has ordered the pull-out of the employees from both the US embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in the city of Erbil in Kurdistan, the embassy said in a statement.
"Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended," it said, recommending those affected depart as soon as possible.
It was unclear how many staff would leave.
The US military reaffirmed concerns about possible imminent threats from Iran to its troops in Iraq, although a senior British commander cast doubt on that and Tehran has called it "psychological warfare".
US President Donald Trump's administration has stepped up sanctions pressure by ending waivers for some countries to purchase Iranian oil - part of efforts to roll back the Islamic republic's expanding regional clout.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that he was getting indications from talks with both the United States and Iran that "things will end well", despite the rhetoric.
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has said Tehran would retaliate against any aggressive US moves.
A US state department spokesman said the decision to withdraw non-emergency staff was based on a security assessment, but would not give details on how many personnel were leaving.
"Ensuring the safety of US government personnel and citizens is our highest priority and we are confident in the Iraqi security services' (ability) to protect us," he said.
"But this threat is serious, and we want to reduce the risk of harm."
International worries that the Trump administration is sliding toward war with Iran flared into the open amid scepticism about its claims that the Islamic Republic poses a growing threat to the US and its allies in the Persian Gulf and beyond.
The US military on Tuesday rebutted doubts expressed by a British general about such a threat.
Mr Trump denied a report that the administration has updated plans to send more than 100,000 troops to counter Iran if necessary.
But Mr Trump then stirred the controversy further by saying: "Would I do that? Absolutely."
The general's remarks exposed international scepticism over the American military build-up in the Middle East, a legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was predicated on false intelligence.
US officials have not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat amid other signs of allied unease.
As tensions in the region started to surge, British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said his nation was worried about the risk of accidental conflict "with an escalation that is unintended really on either side".
Then Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates from the US-led combat fleet heading toward the Strait of Hormuz.
That was followed by the unusual public challenge to the Trump administration by the general.
"No, there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria," said Major General Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the US-backed coalition fighting Isil.
Mr Ghika, speaking in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition monitors the presence of Iranian-backed forces "along with a whole range of others, because that's the environment we're in".