Donald Trump is unhappy that his advisers have ratcheted up the possibility of military conflict with Iran. It's dividing the White House.
According to administration officials who spoke to the Washington Post and the New York Times, Trump is unhappy with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, displeased by what he sees as their “warlike planning” in response to intelligence about Iran.
On one side of the White House split are Pompeo and Bolton, who claim the intelligence shows a heightened threat from Iran. On Tuesday, acting on that intelligence, the U.S. evacuated non-emergency personnel from Iraqi embassies. On May 6, the U.S. also deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the region along with a Patriot Missile defense battery and an Air Force bomber task force.
On the other side are multiple administration officials, as well as U.S. allies who claim the intelligence shows Iran making defensive moves in reaction to an aggressive White House stance.
“They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,” one official told the Post. “There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.”
“They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed.”
Trump, caught in the middle, has long been a critic of the Iranian regime, and officials say he now favors a personal intervention to resolve the crisis.
Trump has developed close relationships with a number of world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He believes these personal links are more effective than than traditional diplomatic channels.
Trump “wants to talk to the Iranians; he wants a deal,” one official told the Post.
Trump denied reports of White House infighting on Twitter Wednesday night. But he is also facing criticism from within his own party, with many GOP lawmakers angry about a lack of intelligence sharing. While some lawmakers have been briefed, others are left guessing about what threat Iran poses to the U.S. and its allies in the region.
“I don’t think it’s fair for us to walk around wondering… because I have no idea what the threat stream is beyond what I read in the paper,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, told reporters Wednesday.
Earlier this week, a senior British military official disputed U.S. claims of a heightened risk of attack by Iran, and while lawmakers say they trust U.S. intelligence more, they want access to all the available information.
“We know that we need to have the most accurate intelligence available, that we can determine, that we can arrive at, before we make any decisions about the use of military force,” Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) told The Hill. “We know that from history. We know that just as a practical matter."
Cover: National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks about Venezuela on April 30, 2019, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)(Sipa via AP Images)