Tuesday, June 18, 2019

US officials say military moves to deter Iran are working

  • >>Julian E Barnes and Emily Cochrane, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-05-22 01:42:04 BdST

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Flight deck of the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is seen as sailors sweep the deck for foreign object and debris (FOD) walk-down on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in Arabian Sea, May 19, 2019. Picture taken May 19, 2019. Garrett LaBarge/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Top Trump administration national security officials said Tuesday that their moves to deter Iran from attacks on Americans and allies were working, but vowed to continue the pressure campaign on Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan were to brief Congress about the intelligence that prompted the United States to send an aircraft carrier, bombers and missile defence systems to the Persian Gulf region.

US Sailors, review ordnance bomb checks on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in Arabian Sea, May 15, 2019. Garrett LaBarge/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

US Sailors, review ordnance bomb checks on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in Arabian Sea, May 15, 2019. Garrett LaBarge/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Late last week, Iran removed some missiles it had stationed on small boats in its territorial waters — a step US officials said was a sign that Iran was seeking to ease tensions.

“Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate,” Shanahan told reporters Tuesday morning.

Patrick Shanahan, the acting defence secretary arrives for a classified briefing on Iran for members of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019. Top Trump administration national security officials said on Tuesday that their moves to deter Iran from attacks on Americans and allies were working, but vowed to continue the pressure campaign on Tehran. “Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate,” Shanahan said. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Patrick Shanahan, the acting defence secretary arrives for a classified briefing on Iran for members of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019. Top Trump administration national security officials said on Tuesday that their moves to deter Iran from attacks on Americans and allies were working, but vowed to continue the pressure campaign on Tehran. “Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate,” Shanahan said. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

In a radio interview, Pompeo said the United States had not determined who was responsible for sabotage attacks last week on oil tankers in the Middle East, but that “it seems like it’s quite possible that Iran was behind” them.

Like many things in Washington, reactions to the administration’s handling of the tensions with Iran have fallen along a sharp partisan divide.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Jolly Rogers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-103) flies above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Arabian Sea, May 18, 2019. Picture taken May 18, 2019. Lt. Logan Holshey/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Republicans briefed on the intelligence have publicly described it as troubling, and the situation as dangerous. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said the fault for the recent tensions in the Middle East lies with Iran.

“If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response,” Graham wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Stand firm Mr. President.”

A flight deck crew signals an MV-22 to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, May 17, 2019. Picture taken May 17, 2019. Amber Smalley/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

A flight deck crew signals an MV-22 to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, May 17, 2019. Picture taken May 17, 2019. Amber Smalley/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Democrats viewing the same reports have come away with a far different view and suggested that Iran has been pushed into its recent moves.

“I believe there is a certain level of escalation of both sides that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Republican Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz. “The feedback loop tells us they’re escalating for war, but they could just be escalating because we’re escalating.”

He accused Bolton and other Iran hard-liners in the Trump administration of trying to get the United States into a “shooting war” with Iran.

© 2019 New York Times News Service