In more news from Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and intelligence officials met with members of the House and Senate for briefings on the situation with Iran. Patrick Shanahan said the U.S. had received “credible intelligence about threats to our interests in the Middle East and to American forces.” He also repeated an earlier refrain from the administration that the current U.S. strategy is about deterrence, not starting a war. He said the deterrence measures had been successful in “put[ting] on hold” possible attacks on Americans for now. Senator Lindsey Graham relayed further details about the briefing to reporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “They explained to us how the Iranian threat streams were different than in the past; that the attack on the ships and the pipeline was coordinated and directed by the Iranian government, the ayatollah; that we had picked up strong intelligence that they had given the Shiite militia basically more running room and direction; and that attacks against American interests and personnel were imminent.”
But Democratic lawmakers questioned the briefing, which they said did not further clarify the administration’s plans going forward. Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith warned about the risk of miscalculations on both sides and asked, “What is this maximum pressure campaign trying to achieve?”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the U.S. decision to send a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region in an interview with CNN. He said, “Having all these military assets in a small area is in of itself prone to accidents. … Extreme prudence is required, and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game.”
In related news, Iraq said it will send delegations to Washington and Tehran in an attempt to “halt tension.” Iraq said it does not want war in the region, two days after a rocket attack in Baghdad that the United States believes may have been linked to militias with ties to Tehran. Iran has rejected the claims.