Iran Vows to Defeat 'American-Zionist Alliance' as Gulf Tensions Rise

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of ordering drone attack on oil installations ■ U.S. orders non-essential staff out of Iraq after intelligence showed Iran-backed militias positioning rockets near U.S. forces

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, deployed to the Gulf
AFP

Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance, Iran's Minister of Defense Amir Hatami said on Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). "We will defeat the American-Zionist front," he said.

The official's comments come amid spiraling U.S.-Iranian tensions and the arrival of a major U.S. aircraft carrier group to the region, and on the heels of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Moscow. The Kremlin said Pompeo's visit failed to allay its concerns over the ongoing crisis.

Saudi Arabia's defence minister on Thursday accused Iran of ordering an attack on Saudi oil installations that Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi militia has claimed responsibility for.

"The terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts," Vice Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman, said in a tweet.

>> Iran threatens the Saudi-U.S. axis without taking direct responsibility ■ Iran choosing time and place to confront America ■ Rohani vs Revolutionary Guards: Inside Iran's turbulent debate

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Sochi, May 14, 2019
AFP

Pompeo made surprise visit to Baghdad this month after U.S. intelligence showed Iran-backed Shi'ite militias positioning rockets near bases housing U.S. forces, according to two Iraqi security sources.

He told Iraq's top brass to keep the militias, which are expanding their power in Iraq and now form part of its security apparatus, in check, the sources said. If not, the U.S. would respond with force.

Read more: Gulf states are sabotaging Trump’s campaign against Iran - and their own security ■ Bernie Sanders warns war with Iran would be 'many times' worse than Iraq war

Saudi Arabia oil pipeline attacked by armed drones

As tensions between Washington and Tehran increase, Iraq finds itself caught between neighbouring Iran, whose regional influence has grown in recent years, and the United States.

"The message from the Americans was clear. They wanted guarantees that Iraq would stop those groups threatening U.S. interests," a senior Iraqi military source with knowledge of Pompeo's trip said.

This satellite image shows Saudi Aramco's Pumping Station al-Duadmi, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, after what the kingdom described as a drone attack
,AP

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow is concerned over mounting tensions and defended Iran's actions as a legitimate response to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.

The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday: "We are on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy," the Fars news agency reported. 

Major General Hossein Salami, named head of the force last month, added: "This moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution." 

The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its supporting group of ships arrived Wednesday at the Gulf of Oman, ahead of a planned passage through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has given European countries a 60-day deadline to negotiate a new nuclear deal Tehran or it would start enriching uranium to higher levels than outlined in the current agreement.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq says the State Department has ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Iran.

A spokesperson for the German Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Germany is suspending military training operations in Iraq due to the increasing regional tensions.

The alert, published on the embassy's website on Wednesday, comes after Washington last week said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests. 

Explained: Tanker attacks near UAE expose weaknesses in Gulf Arab security | How unclear threats raise risks in Persian Gulf tensions

On Sunday, the embassy advised Americans to avoid travel to Iraq, citing "heightened tensions."

Meanwhile, a satellite image obtained by The Associated Press shows one of the two pumping stations attacked by drones in Saudi Arabia apparently intact.

The image from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. that the AP examined on Wednesday shows Saudi Aramco's Pumping Station No. 8 outside of the town of al-Duadmi. It's 330 kilometers, or 205 miles, west of the capital, Riyadh.

The photo, taken Tuesday after the attack claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, shows two black marks near where Saudi Arabia's East-West Pipeline passes by the facility. Those marks weren't there in images taken Monday.

The facility otherwise appears intact.

The attack came as regional tensions flared, just days after what the kingdom called an attack on two of its oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report