Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible | TheHill – The Hill


The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee says he is “convinced” there is cause for concern around Iran’s activists following a pair of briefings on the Gulf nation.

“I am convinced that the information and warnings that we have collected are of greater concern than the normal Iranian harassment activity that we’ve seen in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding area,” Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Trump seeks 7M for Pentagon in .5B border funding request | US general says focus in Venezuela is on intel | Biden backs ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Top Republican asks why more contractors haven’t been used at border in place of troops Overnight Defense: Air Force general tapped for Pentagon No. 2 | Dem presses Trump officials on Yemen strike | Pentagon details 4M border deployment cost MORE (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s business as usual. It is cause for greater concern. … and a great part of that concern relates to Americans being targeted.”

Several prominent senators on Thursday called for more information from the Trump administration after it pulled nonemergency U.S. personnel from Iraq as part of escalating tensions with Tehran.

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Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFormer Kasich adviser registers to lobby against sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military Graham: Trump officials not adequately briefing on Iran threat Pence, McConnell eulogize Sen. Richard Lugar MORE (D-Vt.) – the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations – requested in a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFrustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran US halts flights to Venezuela The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Alabama abortion bill revives national debate MORE that he brief senators on the decision, saying they had “great concern” about the move.

Lawmakers are specifically asking for the administration to explain the intelligence it received about Iran that warranted the quick deployment of a bomber task force and carrier strike group to the region earlier this month. Bolton said at the time that the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.

The Graham and Leahy letter also comes as Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerInfrastructure deal must include child care funds China promised to stop fentanyl traffickers, Congress must hold them to it Schumer urging Pompeo to warn Putin of consequences if Russia interferes in election MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanNapolitano claims Trump violated separation of powers 3 times in last week Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran Air Force No. 2 civilian to take over as acting secretary MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford to testify publicly before the Senate Armed Services Committee about intelligence concerning Iran.

“At this moment, the only thing that is abundantly clear about the administration’s Iran policy is its lack of clarity and the lack of consultation with Congress and with the American people,” Schumer said.

Top congressional leaders later in the day received such a classified briefing but would not say whether they were satisfied with the information or whether alleged threats from Iran are credible.

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But Thornberry said the briefings he attended – one by U.S. Central Command officials and the other from Joint Chiefs of Staff officials, meetings open to all members of the committee – have left him confident the administration is making the right moves.

“There had to be a strong signal sent to Iran that we would defend ourselves if we are attacked,” he said. “I hope everybody can rally around that. Showing that we are willing to stand up and defend Americans was an important thing to do.”

He added that the number of planes and ships that the U.S. sends to the region is a decision “best left to the military. But the hope for me and pretty much everyone is that Iran decides it’s not worth attacking us … and that can be a deterrent.”

Asked whether he was concerned that recent comments by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNapolitano claims Trump violated separation of powers 3 times in last week Work on surprise medical bills goes into overdrive Trump pardons media tycoon, former GOP leader of California State Assembly MORE and national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonOvernight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military Trump dismisses reports of infighting over Iran policy Former Pentagon official calls Bolton’s approach to intel community ‘counterproductive’ MORE may escalate tensions with Iran unnecessarily, Thornberry said his sense is that “Iran is not hanging on every word that’s tweeted or said by Bolton or anybody else.”

“What they do watch is what we do. So I do think showing that we are willing to stand up and defend Americans was an important thing to do and hopefully deter any sort of attacks from happening.”

He added: “If we’re attacked, I expect our military forces will be in a position to respond. I hope that’s not what happens. … It shouldn’t happen. I hope that the tensions start to diminish.”

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