WASHINGTON – Members of Congress who lead the intelligence committees have been briefed by the Trump administration on the classified intelligence that's led to a show of American military might in the Middle East and the evacuation of US personnel from Iraq.
Leaders were tight-lipped as they left the briefing Thursday.
"We've asked for a classified briefing for the entire Congress, for the House of Representatives," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters afterwards. The Trump administration says she'll get her wish next week.
Pelosi and others complain the Trump administration is keeping them out of the loop on the eve of a possible war with Iran, but on the Senate floor, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called the Trump administration's moves "wholly appropriate." He says a "persistent and clear stream of information" indicates Iran and its terrorist partners "pose a serious and potentially imminent threat" to US forces and civilians in the region.
"The appropriate thing for them to do is to reposition military assets to the region, number one, to protect the Americans there in case they come under attack, and number two, to be in a position to retaliate. And the reason why this is important is because you hope to deter this sort of attack," Sen. Rubio said during a lengthy speech about the situation.
However, the Wall Street Journal reports there's intelligence Iran believed the US planned to attack them, prompting Tehran to move weapons into position for possible counterstrikes – a move the US and its allies saw as a threat.
Others in the administration though believe Iran was planning to strike first.
The concerns arose after surveillance photos showed Iranian-backed militia loading missiles onto small ships in the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, some critics fear the president is being pressured by his National Security Advisor John Bolton and others who are hawkish on Iran.
The president disputed that tweeting, "Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision." He also revealed his hope at the White House Thursday. When a reporter asked if the US is going to war with Iran, the president said, "I hope not."
Sen. Rubio says it's simple. "If Iran attacks there will be a war. If Iran does not attack there will not be a war."
This escalation between the US and Iran comes one year after the president pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reinstated crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Iranian leaders say they'll resume enriching uranium at higher levels if they can't reach a new nuclear deal with Europe by July 5.