After A Day of Briefings on Iran, House Democrats Decry Trump’s Lack of a ‘Coherent Strategy’

May 21, 2019 by Dan McCue
The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group conduct joint operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations on May 17, 2019, in the Arabian Sea. (US Navy photo)

As tension continues to mount here and in the Persian Gulf over a potential armed conflict between the United States and Iran, members of New Democrat Coalition in the House of Representatives say they are “deeply concerned” over the Trump administration’s “lack of a coherent strategy.”

The statement from Representatives Brad Schneider, D-Ill., Anthony Brown, D-Md., Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., members of the New Democrat Coalition’s National Security Task Force, came after a briefing on the Hill by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

In also followed an earlier session in which the Democrats sought a second opinion on the brewing crisis from former Obama administration officials.

In their statement, the representatives said, “The recent provocative rhetoric used by both administration officials and the President is worrisome, as it demonstrates a willingness to antagonize an adversary nation with no apparent concern for the national security ramifications of such impulsive actions.

“Iran is a serious threat, both to the United States and to our allies in the region, and we must be a global leader in the effort to counter Tehran’s dangerous behavior,” they continued. “To do so, it is critical that our actions be driven by strategy and the pursuit of defined national security priorities — such as countering Iran’s regional influence efforts and preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to say “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Later, he struck a more conciliatory tone, suggesting, “Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready. In the meantime, their economy continues to collapse – very sad for the Iranian people!”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill responded by reminding the administration it cannot take the country into war without approval from Congress.

Tuesday briefings further illustrated the concern among Democrats and a number of Republicans over Trump’s whirligig policy shifts when it comes to Iran and the Middle East as a whole.

Prior to traveling to Capitol Hill, Pompeo tweeted “Going to the Hill shortly to have a serious discussion with lawmakers about 40 years of unprovoked aggression from the Iranian regime and to explain the prudent steps we’re taking to deter violence, protect American interests, and support the brave Iranian people.”

The Trump administration sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, four bomber aircraft and other assets to the region last week to counter an alleged, unspecified threat from Iran.

It is reportedly also now moving a Patriot missile battery to an unnamed country in the region.

And it has evacuated non-essential personnel from Iraq.

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who spoke with reporters after a closed-door briefing Tuesday morning with former CIA Director John Brennan and former State Department official Wendy Sherman, said Trump’s inconsistencies have “multiplied the risks” from Iran.

While he would not discuss what was said in the briefings, he suggested what he hasn’t heardany kind of strategy for keeping the United States out of a war.

But Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the committee, said in a statement that the intelligence he’s seen demonstrates an undeniable threat from Iran and suggested lawmakers who say otherwise are doing so for political reasons.

“It’s unacceptable for anyone to put Americans in the region and U.S. national security interests at risk by politicizing, ignoring or downplaying the Iranian regime’s real and grave threats,” the Rubio statement said.

Also defending the administration was Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said in a pair of tweets that the threats from Iran are real.

“It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq,” Graham said.

“The fault lies with the Iranians, not the United States or any other nation,” the senator continued. “If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response.”

He urged the president to “stand firm.”

Brennan reportedly told House Democrats Tehran believes Trump is intent on regime change and that while it doesn’t  wants a conflict, the Iranian leadership won’t cave into the president’s demands.

Sherman, who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, reportedly told the Democrats Trump’s statements on Iran are hurting U.S. credibility in the region and undermining moderates within Iran.

In their statement, the New Democrat Coalition members said Trump escalated problems by abruptly withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, a complex accord negotiated during the Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production.

“Acting impulsively without a coherent and defined strategy and aggressively posturing against an adversary nation does not keep us safe,” their statement said.  “As members of Congress, we affirm that only Congress has the constitutional authority to authorize the use of military force, and as such, we find it deeply concerning that the Administration is making military preparations and deployments, before engaging with Congress regarding its intentions, strategy, and plans.”

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