Lawmakers warn of 'grave situation' after drone shot down

Lawmakers emerging from a closed-door briefing on Iran on Thursday warned the threat of U.S. military action is increasing after a U.S. drone was shot down.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelAl Green says impeachment is 'only solution' to Trump's rhetoric Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.) said no decisions on military action were presented at the briefing — delivered by administration officials to congressional leaders — but that “it’s a very grave situation."


“The provocation on behalf of the Iranians is serious,” he said. “I think right now there’s strong analysis going on as to exactly what happened and why, and I think we’ll know more when the analysis is completed.”

“I fear military action because I don’t want to get into a war,” Engel added. “We’ll have to see.”

But some lawmakers who have President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s ear were blunt about what they think needs to happen.

“Here’s what Iran needs to get ready for: Severe pain inside their country,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Democrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters. “If they’re itching for a fight, they’re going to get one. We’re a lot closer to that today than we were yesterday, and only god knows what tomorrow brings.”

Graham said he spoke with Trump on Thursday morning and has plans to speak with him again in the afternoon.

On Wednesday night, an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an unarmed U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone operating in international airspace above the Strait of Hormuz, according to Central Command.

U.S. Air Forces Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella added later in another statement that the U.S. drone was operating about 21 miles from the nearest point of land off the Iranian coast at the time it was shot down.

“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission,” Guastella said to Pentagon reporters in call from Qatar in which he took no questions. “This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce.”

Iran has said the U.S. drone was operating over the Hormozgan Province in southern Iran.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that Iran “made a big mistake” by shooting down the drone.

Asked later if he planned to strike Iran, Trump said the public “will soon find out.”

But Trump also appeared to give Iran some benefit of the doubt when assigning blame for the incident, saying that “I imagine someone made a mistake.”

Iran has also recently said it will exceed on June 27 the limit on the amount of uranium it is allowed to stockpile under the international nuclear deal. It has also threatened to increase the level of enrichment of its uranium, bring it closer to weapons-grade.

On Thursday, Graham said if Iran follows through with its threat on uranium, Israel will be forced to respond over time, “and we’ll follow.”

Graham added that Trump needs to respond to the drone incident or else risk losing credibility.

“We had told the Iranians before they shot the drone down, if you engage against American personnel or assets you do so at your own peril,” Graham said. “The president does not want war with Iran or anybody else, but he is the commander in chief.”

Republican leaders from the House similarly said it is important to respond.

“I think it’s important for us to stand up to Iran and to make it clear that we’re not going to allow them to America or American allies,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Democrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Democratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' MORE (R-La.) said. “It wasn’t a wise move by Iran to take this aggressive action, and they just put us in a position where we have to look at wider options to respond."

Scalise said he would not “speculate on what the president will do,” but that Trump is examining his options.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R-Calif.), a close Trump ally who attended the briefing, deferred to the president on what the proper response should be.

“I think the president will have options before him like any other situation. They will measure the options and make a decision,” McCarthy said.

But he firmly denounced Iran for downing the drone.

“It’s unacceptable to shoot down an American UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] in international waters. It is unacceptable for any country to do that. Iran knows that is unacceptable,” McCarthy told reporters.

“Iran has a long history of terrorist play, and that is unacceptable to the world and the world is not safe when Iran continues to have that behavior.”

Scott Wong contributed