Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year

Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year
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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: Washington found itself in a familiar place Monday, albeit one that seemed far off a week ago – wondering whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE would launch a military strike against Iran.

Attacks on Saudi oil facilities raised the specter of U.S. military action, as did Trump threatened over the weekend that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond.

On Monday afternoon, Trump said he wants to avoid war with Iran.


"Do I want war? I don't want war with anybody," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain, later adding: "We have the strongest military in the world."

He also would not definitively blame Iran for the attacks, despite other administration officials indicating earlier that Iran was responsible.

"Well, it's looking that way," Trump told reporters when asked if Iran was responsible for the Saudi attacks.

"We'll let you know definitively," Trump continued. "That's being checked out right now."

What happened: On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil processing plant were set ablaze in attacks that shut off half of the Kingdom's oil exports, or 5 percent of the world's supply, causing oil prices to spike.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who Saudi Arabia is fighting in that country's civil war, took credit for the attack, saying they carried it out with 10 drones.

But Trump administration officials quickly blamed Iran, with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE tweeting Saturday that "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

Trump ups rhetoric: On Twitter before the Oval Office meeting, Trump ramped up his rhetoric against Iran.

"Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their 'airspace' when, in fact, it was nowhere close," Trump tweeted Monday.

"They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We'll see?"

Meeting ruled out: Last week, Washington was aflutter with speculation that Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would meet at next week's United Nations General Assembly meeting.

On Monday, Iran ruled that out.

"Neither is such an event on our agenda, nor will it happen. Such a meeting will not take place," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on state-run media.

Iran's comments come after Trump over the weekend denied he was willing to meet with Iran with no conditions, despite Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid House Democrats plan to unveil bill next week to avert shutdown MORE saying last week he was willing to meet with no preconditions.

Pentagon's role: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTop admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Oldest living US World War II veteran turns 111 MORE and other officials briefed Trump on Monday about the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Esper said.

Esper, in the Pentagon's first public statement on the Saturday attacks, tweeted that he had just returned "from a meeting at the White House where [Department of Defense] DoD leadership and others briefed the Commander in Chief on the situation."

"The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran," he said.

Esper also said he spoke over the weekend with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Iraqi Minister of Defense Najah al-Shammari about the incident.

Lawmaker response: Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsBiden promises Democratic senators help in battleground states Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-Del.) said the U.S. may need to use military force against Iran if intelligence reports determine Tehran was behind recent attacks on two Saudi oil refineries.

"This may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran if that's what the intelligence supports," Coons said Monday on "Fox & Friends."

Coons said it "seems credible" that Iran is responsible for Saturday's attacks, arguing that the Houthis -- the Yemeni rebels supported by Iran -- don't have the "sort of advanced drones that carried out" the strikes.

Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention MORE (D-Hawaii) took aim at Trump after he said the U.S. is "locked and loaded" and "waiting to hear from the Kingdom."

"Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters," she tweeted. "Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not 'America First.'"

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina MORE (R-S.C.) said Saturday the U.S. should consider striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the attacks.

"It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment," Graham tweeted.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque MORE (R-Idaho) warned Iran on Monday that it "should not underestimate the United States' resolve," but indicated the threshold for retaliation should be an attack on U.S. forces.

"Any attack against U.S. forces deployed abroad must be met with an overwhelming response--no targets are off the table," Risch said in a statement.

"Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime's back," he added.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE (D-N.M.), who was the lead Senate sponsor of an amendment to the annual defense policy bill meant to block Trump from taking military action against Iran, called for the amendment to be included in the final version of the bill currently being negotiated.

"Iran's behavior in the region is highly problematic on many levels, but Saudi Arabia's oil interests do not determine whether the United States goes to war – the U.S. Congress does," Udall said in a statement Monday. "Rather than threats of war, the right move is active diplomacy to lower tensions in the region."


2019'S 17TH US COMBAT DEATH IN AFGHANISTAN: A U.S. service member was killed in action Monday in Afghanistan, the NATO-led mission in the country said.

The news release from Operation Resolute Support provided no details of the incident, noting only that they "were killed in action."

The identity of the U.S. service member is being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin is notified, in accordance with Defense Department policy.

Timing: The death, the 17th U.S. combat death in the country this year, comes just more than a week after President Trump simultaneously revealed and canceled plans for a summit with Taliban leaders to be held at Camp David.

Trump has since said talks are "dead," blaming an attack claimed by the Taliban that killed a U.S. soldier and 11 others.



A Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on southeastern Europe with testimony from outside experts at 3 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 222. https://bit.ly/2kLW1vi

Under Secretary of Defense for policy John Rood will discuss "The Status of Missile Defense for U.S. National Security" at a Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance congressional roundtable. Livestream at https://bit.ly/2kkCd25.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan are among the speakers for Day 2 of the Air Force Association's 2019 Air, Space and Cyber Conference. Livestream at https://bit.ly/2mlFiQd.



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-- Associated Press: North Korea says talks with US could resume in a 'few weeks'

-- The Washington Post: Iran's strategic use of drones and missiles rattles Middle East rivals