Congress briefed on Iran after Saudi oil attacks


Congress received classified briefings Wednesday on Iran following attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities the Trump administration has blamed on Tehran.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a typical Trump ally who has clashed with the president over how to respond to the attacks, emerged from the Senate’s briefing continuing to push military action but said he thinks President Trump is “waiting to see what happens with the coalition building.”

“I am more determined now than ever to make the case that to restore deterrence Iran has to pay a price that they can feel — and sanctions will never do the job — and that we should be considering a military response,” Graham said. “I’m hoping the president will respond in a fashion where the Iranians will not be confused about the price they pay to disrupt the world.”

{mosads}The briefing was conducted by midlevel Defense, State and intelligence officials, senators said.

Earlier this month, drones and cruise missiles struck a Saudi Arabian oil field and an oil refinery in attacks that disrupted about 5 percent of the world’s supply of oil.

The Trump administration quickly blamed Iran for the attacks, though Yemen’s Houthi rebels have taken responsibility and Iran has denied involvement.

On Monday, U.S. allies Britain, Germany and France joined in blaming Iran, saying there is “no other plausible explanation.”

In the joint statement, the three countries, which are still party to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran from which Trump withdrew, also said that the “time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery.”

Trump’s supporters took the statement as a sign the Europeans were getting closer to the Trump administration position that the nuclear deal is insufficient, with State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeting Tuesday that “we agree” with the “important statement” that “it’s time for a new and better deal.”

Coming out of Wednesday’s briefing, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Trump administration is living in “an absolute fantasy world.”

“The administration continues to believe they’re going to be able to put together some broad multilateral coalition to pressure the Iranians into coming back to the negotiating table when in fact the exact opposite is true,” Murphy said. “Our European partners are actually actively trying to undermine our maximum pressure campaign. And [the briefers] sit in this room and try to pretend as if they’re on the cusp of getting the Europeans to join us.”

U.S.-Iran tensions have been high since 2018 when Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and began reimposing strict sanctions.

The Saudi attacks reinvigorated the animus between the two countries, with many on edge last week that the United States would respond with military action.

Trump has so far reacted to the attacks with sanctions against Iran’s central bank and by approving the deployment of more U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia.

Details remain fuzzy on how many troops will deploy and when. Senators would not discuss details of the deployment following the briefing.

Asked about whether military action sounded close, Murphy said, “They’re obviously not going to tip their hands.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who previously said the United States should not take military action in response to the attack, reiterated that position.

“I certainly support the right of the Saudis to do what they believe is in their best interest. Their country was attacked,” Romney said. “I would prefer not to have our military involved on a kinetic basis.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he walked away from the briefing believing that “the risk factors of miscalculation between the United States and Iran are pretty high.”

Tags Ben Cardin Chris Murphy Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Mitt Romney

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