Iran says exercising restraint despite 'unacceptable' escalation of U.S. sanctions

A US Navy Aviation Maintenance Administrationman deployed to the Persian Gulf

Last week, U.S. officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on American forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not spelled out that threat.

Menendez said the Trump administration "has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran".

And on Wednesday, the State Department announced it was evacuating all non-emergency staff from neighboring Iraq, closing the USA embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Erbil.

"Neither we nor the U.S. seek war".

"As we pointed out previously, Mr. Trump is in danger of being cornered into choosing between a counterproductive use of force and allowing Iran to cross red lines". However, the officials characterized the threat as not more credible or imminent than it was in the week prior, as the US moved military assets to the region and warned of Iranian-related threats.

The Trump administration has alleged that Iran or its allied forces could launch an imminent attack on American troops or U.S. allies in the region.

Iran remains committed to its obligations under an worldwide nuclear deal despite the USA withdrawal from the landmark agreement, its foreign minister said on Thursday, calling the reimposition of U.S. sanctions "unacceptable".

Mr Lavrov said Mr Pompeo told him that a potential deployment of 120,000 USA troops to the Middle East was only a "rumour".

Later in the day, in a rare public rebuttal of an allied military officer, US Central Command said Maj Gen Ghika's remarks "run counter to the identified credible threats" from Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East.

Romney said it's "inconceivable" that Trump would start a conflict with Iran.

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"They have no business declaring a war without the consent of Congress", she said.

Iran, for its part, has designated all United States troops stationed in the region as terrorists.

"We believe that escalation by the United States is unacceptable and uncalled for", Zarif told Kono in front of reporters before they met privately.

Republicans - and even some Democrats - who have been briefed said the threats are legitimate.

The German military announced on Wednesday that it had suspended all training operations in Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region due to tensions arising from the current Iran crisis, Germany's DPA news agency reported.

A handful of countries take a harsher rhetorical line on Iran: among them are Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Brunei.

Four tankers-two Saudi, one Emirati, and one Norwegian-were attacked on May 12 near the Strait of Hormuz by unidentified saboteurs.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement a year ago and is ratcheting up sanctions on Iran, aiming to strangle its economy by ending its worldwide sales of crude oil.

The United Arab Emirates, a key U.S. ally in the region, has even said it is committed to a "de-escalation" with Iran.

Saudi Aramco, the government-controlled oil company, said that as a precaution, it temporarily shut down the pipeline and contained a fire, which caused minor damage to one pumping station.

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