The British government has raised the threat level for military and diplomatic staff operating in a number of Gulf states including Iraq over tensions with Iran, in a move that follows the withdrawal of non-essential staff from Iraq by the U.S. government.
The change puts UK forces and diplomats in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar on a higher state of alert, reports Sky News, citing UK government sources. The security risk assessment for British personnel in Iraq and the other Gulf states is separate, but both are claimed to have been revised.
No specific details on the threat have been released, but claims of a rising threat of asymmetric warfare against soft targets are reported. The Sky News report claims soft targets like civilian and oil infrastructure might be attacked by Iran or its allies.
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The change falls short of the withdrawal from the region of non-essential staff presently taking place for U.S. forces, with the State Department confirming Wednesday that it had ordered all non-essential staff out of theatre with immediate effect. Those American citizens in Iraq were advised to “depart by commercial transportation as soon as possible.”
This was followed by both Germany and the Netherlands suspending their work training the Iraqi army on Wednesday when a spokesman for the German government saying it was following the lead of allies on the move, and that it was in response to a worsening security situation.
The move by the British government resembles a sharp change of policy from Wednesday, when the Foreign Office said it wasn’t going to follow the U.S. withdrawal and a British general contradicted Washington’s assessment of the security situation, saying of Iranian militias “No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”