WASHINGTON — The Latest on the Trump administration’s Iran policy (all times local):
Top Trump administration officials have told Congress that recent actions by the U.S. have deterred Iranian attacks on American forces. But some lawmakers remain deeply skeptical of the White House approach in the Middle East.
After Tuesday’s closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said their objective over recent days has been to deter Iran.
Shanahan says they now want to prevent further escalation, telling reporters, “We’re not about going to war.”
He says the administration’s goal “is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” adding, “We do not want the situation to escalate.”
Democrats are particularly concerned the administration may try to rely on nearly 20-year-old war authorizations rather than seek fresh approval from Congress for any action.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is trying to assure lawmakers that the administration is not rushing toward a military confrontation with Iran.
Shanahan says he outlined during closed-door briefings Tuesday what the Pentagon has done since receiving “credible intelligence about threats to our interests in the Middle East and to American forces.” He said, “This is about deterrence, not about war.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed lawmakers alongside Shanahan and said he placed recent intelligence about Iran “in context.”
The briefings on Capitol Hill came after weeks of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. Lawmakers have criticized the administration for not communicating with Congress while responding to the threat. Many have warned that the Trump administration cannot go to war without authorization from Congress.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top Trump administration officials are briefing Congress behind closed doors about the situation in Iran.
Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented a classified briefing Tuesday to House lawmakers to mixed results.
Some Republicans say what they heard backed up President Donald Trump’s recent actions in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier and other resources to the region amid undisclosed threats officials indicated are linked to Iran.
But Democrats say they left the session with more questions than answers. Some Democrats appeared skeptical of the administration’s strategy.
The administration officials were briefing senators next in a separate closed-door session.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has canceled a trip to Europe amid U.S. tensions with Iran.
In acknowledging Dunford’s decision to remain in Washington, his spokesman, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, did not cite the Iran situation. He said only that “unforeseen commitments” required him to cancel the trip.
The planned trip already had been shortened so that Dunford could join Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other administration officials Tuesday in closed-door Iran briefings for the House and Senate.
Dunford had planned to travel to Brussels to attend routine NATO military consultative meetings.
House Democrats have received a closed-door briefing on Iran from former CIA Director John Brennan and former State Department official Wendy Sherman, who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.
Brennan told Democrats that while Iran wants to avoid conflict, the country’s leadership will not capitulate to Trump. Sherman warned that reckless behavior by the Trump administration is undermining moderates in the country. That’s according to a person in the room who was not authorized to discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and evacuated non-essential personnel from Iraq amid unspecified threats the administration says are linked to Iran.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he wants answers on “what the administration’s strategy is — if they have one — to keep us out of war.”
— Susannah George
Ahead of briefings on Capitol Hill, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is suggesting that the U.S. military response to Iranian threats has already had an effect.
Shanahan tells reporters that the military moves by the United States have given Iran “time to recalculate” and as a result the potential for attacks on Americans is “on hold.”
He cautioned that the lack of attacks on Americans doesn’t mean the threats have gone away.
The U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group, four bomber aircraft and other assets to the region, and is moving a Patriot missile battery to an unnamed country in the area.
Shanahan says the response was a measure of America’s willingness to protect its people and interests in the region. He and other national security officials will brief Congress on Tuesday.
Iran and tensions in the Persian Gulf as well as President Donald Trump’s tough talk are the subject of competing meetings in the House and Senate, both closed to the public and the press.
Tuesday’s meetings on Capitol Hill come as lawmakers warn the Trump administration it cannot take the country into war without approval from Congress. The briefings are another indication of wariness by Democrats and some Republicans over the White House’s sudden policy shifts in the Middle East.
Trump continues to offer a mixed signal on Iran, telling reporters Monday that Iran has been “very hostile” and that its provocations will be met with “great force,” but also saying that he’s willing to negotiate. Trump also says no talks are scheduled but he’d like to hear from Iran.