Friday 18 October 2019

US politicians split on whether Iranians pose a 'credible' threat

Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Karoun Demirjian

US politicians were bitterly divided yesterday over whether Iran poses an imminent threat to US interests or the Trump administration is exaggerating intelligence to lay the groundwork for war.

Top administration officials briefed the House and Senate in two closed-door sessions, presenting evidence that Iran may be poised to attack US military and diplomatic personnel in the Middle East.

But some Democrats said that none of the information showed Iran was more of a threat now than in the past, and they accused the administration of being ready to attack at the slightest provocation.

US and Western intelligence officials also have debated whether the intelligence, which includes photographs of Iranians loading missiles on to small boats, indicates that the nation is ready to strike or is responding defensively to economic pressure from Trump administration sanctions and a perception that the White House is eager for a fight.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joseph Dunford Jr faced sceptical members, some of whom said they heard echoes of a previous administration's case for war in the Middle East.

"I truly believe that the intel has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by Secretary Pompeo, by [national security adviser John] Bolton and other people that do want us to go to war in Iran, as a repeat to Iraq," Democrat Ruben Gallego said upon leaving the briefing for House members.

"This is a case of somebody getting into somebody's face and hoping that they'll punch, and waiting to punch back," said Democrat Joaquin Castro.

But some Republicans saw the information differently, and pointed to "new", "credible" and "consistent" threats that Senator Lindsey Graham called "a game-changer".

Mr Graham said the administration's recent actions, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier, were in response to "strong intelligence" that Iran's leaders had given Shiite militias in Iraq "more running room and direction that attacks against American interests and personnel were imminent".

Republicans insisted that the administration was not hurtling toward a war with Iran, calling recent military moves "measured". But Mr Graham warned the administration not to shy from using force. (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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