Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible

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 ThornberryPentagon chief denies White House hand in 'war cloud' contract probe U.S. and U.K. divide increases on Iran Republican lawmakers issue dueling letters over Pentagon 'war cloud' contract 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 GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules 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 PompeoChina threatens to sanction US firms over sales of F-16s to Taiwan Trump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week 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 SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanWhy Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary Five questions for Trump's new defense secretary on first major tour Trump says media is part of vetting his nominees: 'We save a lot of money that way' 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.

Pompeo, Shanahan, Dunford and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelTrump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan Politics must stop at the edge of intelligence for sake of security Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief MORE gave a briefing to the so-called Gang of Eight: House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (R-Ky.), Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump: Jews who vote Democrat show 'lack of knowledge or great disloyalty' Are Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (D-Calf.), House Intelligence ranking member Devin NunesDevin Gerald Nunes10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Juan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America Trump expected to nominate Texas GOP lawmaker to replace Dan Coats: report MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role Trump withdraws Ratcliffe as Intelligence pick MORE (R-N.C.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (D-Va.).

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 Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE and national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonSchumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord Why President Trump must keep speaking out on Hong Kong Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan 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.”