UK raises threat level for Mideast personnel – report

A British paratrooper stands guard at the embassy in Baghdad in June 2003. ©Reuters / Free

The British government has elevated the threat level for troops and diplomats throughout the Middle East, Sky News reported citing a government source. It comes amid a US military build-up to counter Iran.

The change of security situation for Britons affects Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, the British television channel reported. The decision to was taken due to a fear of “Iran or its proxies taking action against British, US or other allied interests,” it said.

The Sky source suggested Tehran may be plotting an attack that would provide plausible deniability, thus avoiding an all-out war with the US, which would still “signal Iranian anger” over sanctions imposed by the US.

The ongoing escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran started in early May, when the Trump administration claimed it had intelligence indicating a looming attack by Iranian forces against US interests. The intelligence was reportedly provided by Israel and prompted deployment of additional military assets in the region by the Pentagon, including an aircraft carrier strike group with bomber planes on board, B-52 strategic bombers and a battery of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles.

This week Washington also pulled non-essential personnel from diplomatic missions in Iraq as part of the escalation. Some European nations took similar moves, withdrawing troops and military hardware away from the Middle East and voiced concerns about possible hostilities between the US and Iran.

The White House was reportedly reluctant to share the intelligence with allies and even US lawmakers, resulting in some complaints on both sides of the political aisle in Washington. A Wednesday New York Times report said the intelligence was overhead images of Iranian troops loading missiles on small sailboats. The newspaper cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

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