Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments

Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments
© Getty Images

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: U.S.-Iran tensions remain high as the new week begins.

Monday's latest development is the Trump administration's decision to send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

The decision was announced in a statement by acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE, who said troops would be used for defensive purposes.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," Shanahan said. "The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests."

"We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats," he added.

Latest on tanker attack: The announcement comes amid increasing friction between the U.S. and Iran following an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

The U.S. has blamed Iran for the attack and produced images it claims show Iranians removing a mine from the ship's hull, but the nation has strongly denied responsibility for the attack.

More on this breaking story here.

Iran deadline: The day's other big development was Iran saying that in 10 days it will have stockpiled more uranium than allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The announcement isn't all that surprising -- in May, Tehran said it was increasing its uranium production capacity. But the announcement sets a new countdown clock for Europe to meet Iran's demands on the nuclear deal.

The specifics: The 2015 nuclear deal says Iran can stockpile no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.

In May, Iran announced it was quadrupling its uranium production capacity following the Trump administration's decision to end waivers that allowed Iran to export excess uranium.

On Monday, the spokesman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Iran will pass the 300 kilogram limit on June 27.

For now, Iran is still only enriching to the 3.67 percent limit set by the deal -- enough for power plants but far from weapons-grade.

But Kamalvandi said Iran will increase uranium enrichment levels "based on the country's needs." He said Iran needs 5 percent enrichment for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr and 20 percent enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.

Iran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to ensure it still gets benefits from the deal despite U.S. sanctions before it will increase enrichment levels.

US response: The Trump administration responded to the news by blaming the Obama administration and calling for "increased international pressure" against Iran.

"Iran's enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left ... their capabilities intact," National Security Council spokesman Garret Marquis said in a statement. "President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime's nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure."

European response: Iran's announcement came as European foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Monday the situation in the Gulf calls for "maximum restraint," a play on the Trump administration's policy of "maximum pressure."

Foreign ministers expressed, she said, "a very strong element of concern for the risk of miscalculation or unintentional escalations that could occur in a region that is already to the limits of the stress test."

Mogherini also said the EU was focused on ways to "keep the [nuclear] agreement in place," including mechanisms for Iran to continue to benefit from the deal.

She stressed Europe will move forward based on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessments.

"Our assessment on the implementation of the agreement is based on the factual, technically sound assessment and evaluation that the IAEA makes in its reports. And so far, Iran has been compliant with its nuclear commitments as we had expected it to be, as we had encouraged it to be," she said. "So if the IAEA assessment and reports will change, we will then assess the situation further."

Over the weekend: Iran was a prominent top of discussion on the Sunday shows.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist US bans top Myanmar generals from country over attacks on Rohingya Muslims MORE stood by the administration's assessment that Iran attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, saying it is "unmistakable what happened here."

"These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping on the freedom of navigation, with the clear intent to deny transit through the strait," Pompeo said.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.) said in an interview that aired Sunday that "we have absolutely no appetite for going to war" with Iran.

"We have absolutely no appetite for going to war or to be provocative, to create situations that might evoke responses where mistakes could be made," she said while appearing on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Iran-hawk Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Five things to know about Iran's breaches of the nuclear deal Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency MORE (R-Ark.) said the tanker attacks "warrant a retaliatory military strike."

"These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike," Cotton said on CBS's "Face the Nation" while insisting President Trump had the power to order such a strike without congressional approval.

"The president has the authorization to act to defend American interests," Cotton said.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE said in an interview that aired Sunday that U.S. tensions with Iran are "disturbingly reminiscent" of the lead-up to the Iraq War.

"There's no question that Iran has a pattern of malign activities. There's also no question that there is a pattern that is disturbingly reminiscent of the run-up to the war in Iraq in some cases being driven by the same people," Buttigieg said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Coming up: Pompeo will meet Tuesday with Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie and Special Operations Command chief Gen. Richard Clarke at their headquarters in Florida to discuss "regional security concerns and ongoing operations," the State Department announced Monday.

It's unusual for a secretary of State to meet with combatant commanders, so keep an eye out for news about the visit.

 

DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENTS ROLL IN: Every year hundreds of amendments are filed on the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), while only a few, if any, are actually voted on.

But The Hill's Jordain Carney is diligently pouring over the amendments nonetheless, highlighting the most interesting.

Among them, Senate Democrats want to block defense funding from being used for the border wall.

Spearheaded by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric MORE (D-Ill.), the amendment would prohibit Trump from using national defense funds authorized by the mammoth policy bill toward the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The amendment would also prohibit Trump from using national defense funds authorized between fiscal years 2015 and 2019 as part of the NDAA.

The amendment is supported by Democratic Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' MORE (N.M.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (Vt.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOn The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Bottom Line MORE (Hawaii), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Mont.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic Sen. Chris Murphy announces book on gun violence Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (Conn.). Leahy is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, while Tester is the ranking member on the panel's Department of Homeland Security subcommittee.

Honoring McCain: Another amendment of interest revives a bipartisan push to start a human rights commission named after the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R-Ariz.).

The commission, according to the legislation, would hold hearings and briefings on human rights violations and collaborate with the Trump administration and outside groups on human rights initiatives.

Sens. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship MORE (D-Del.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist MORE (R-N.C.), who co-chair the Senate Human Rights Caucus, first introduced legislation to create the commission named after McCain late last year.

In addition to Coons and Tillis, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar fundraises for McConnell challenger: 'Two Amys are better than one' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE (D-Minn.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Ind.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthAdvocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker Woman accusing Trump military nominee of sexual assault says she's willing to testify MORE (D-Ill.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Senators press FTC over 'woefully inadequate' Facebook settlement Head of miners union calls Green New Deal's main goal 'almost impossible' MORE (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE (R-Maine), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Acosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' MORE (D-Va.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE (D-Mass.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei MORE (R-Fla.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-Okla.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranEpstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Bottom Line Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Kan.) are listed as cosponsors to the amendment.

 

UN NOMINEE GETS HEARING: Kelly Craft, President Trump's nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will get her confirmation hearing Wednesday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has officially scheduled Craft for 10:15 a.m., according to a press advisory issued Monday.

Craft, currently the U.S. ambassador to Canada, would replace Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyAmerican women can have it all State denies report ex-spokeswoman received Fox salary while in administration Trump rules out Haley joining 2020 ticket MORE, who resigned her post at the end of 2018. The position has remained vacant for six months.

Background: Trump announced plans to nominate Craft in February after his first choice, former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, abruptly withdrew from consideration after it was revealed she had employed a nanny who lacked proper authorization to work in the U.S. Craft was not officially nominated to the position until last month.

Craft is a Kentucky native and the wife of billionaire coal executive Joe Craft; both are influential Republican donors. She is likely to face some tough questions about her family's business interests and her views on climate change during her confirmation hearing, as well as questions about geopolitical issues from North Korea to Iran.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the five years since the Ukrainian revolution at 2:30 p.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2RkaMS5

Deputy assistant secretary of the Army for strategy and acquisition reform Alexis Lasselle Ross will discuss the Army's new policy on intellectual property at 1:30 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://bit.ly/2INKALR

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack

-- The Hill: Judge dismisses House lawsuit over border wall funding at their request

-- The Hill: Opinion: It's a mistake to send more US troops to Poland

-- The Hill: Opinion: The costs of confrontation with Iran are mounting

-- Reuters: Exclusive: U.S. preparing to send more troops to Middle East - sources

-- Associated Press: US: Iran should still comply with nuke deal Trump derided

-- Navy Times: With a new team of prosecutors, the Navy takes a final shot at SEAL Eddie Gallagher