WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - Trump administration officials affirmed on Tuesday that assertive US measures, including the dispatch of forces to the region, had succeeded in deterring Iran from carrying out attacks on US targets.
After briefing members of both the Senate and House of Representatives, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the press, “We have deterred attacks based on our re-posturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces.”
Shanahan explained that he had informed the Congressmen about “credible intelligence” the administration had received “about threats to our interests in the Middle East and to American forces,” which had precipitated the military moves.
He provided no details, although The Washington Post reported that the briefing Shanahan, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, presented to Congress included photographs of Iranians loading missiles onto small boats.
Shanahan appeared to suggest that no Iranian missiles had been fired, because of the muscular US moves. “This is about deterrence, not about war—or not about going to war,” he affirmed.
Pompeo told the press much the same. “Our ultimate objective over the past days,” he stated, “has been to deter Iran.”
The Congressional response seemed to divide along partisan lines, with Democrats suggesting “The intel has been misinterpreted and misrepresented,” by people who “want us to go to war in Iran, as a repeat to Iraq,” as one Democratic Congressman charged.
Another Democrat, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (Michigan), who is also a former CIA analyst, complained that Iranian proxies had regularly lobbed missiles into the Green Zone, and it was wrong for the Trump administration to make a big deal about such actions now.
“I spent some years in Baghdad during much more volatile times, when 40 or 50 rockets a day we’re coming into the green zone," Slotkin told USA Today.
But that is precisely the point that senior US officials are now making, Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and now a Senior Fellow at Soran University, told Kurdistan 24.
“We’ve put up with Iranian aggression for far too long,” Davis said, as he noted that the administration is highlighting the fact that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iran was responsible for the deaths of 603 US soldiers.
Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama did much to hold Tehran to account.
Unlike Democrats, Republicans were generally supportive. “The action taken by the administration is totally appropriate," Sen. Mitt Romney (R, Utah) said. "Our intelligence community had a high degree of confidence that something might occur that would be of detriment to our personnel.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina), a close Trump ally, tweeted his support, “The Obama-era policy of Iranian appeasement is over.”
The Obama-era policy of Iranian appeasement is over.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 21, 2019
The days of Iran killing Americans – without consequence – is over.
President Donald Trump, for his part, has made conflicting statements. On Sunday, after a Katyusha rocket was fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the US embassy, Trump seemed to hold Iran responsible, as he tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”
On Monday, however, Trump told reporters, ”We have no indication that anything’s happened or will happen,” with Iran, “but if it does, it will be met, obviously with great force.”
On Tuesday, before briefing Congress, Pompeo spoke with conservative radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt. Pompeo explained that the “core challenge” that Iran “presents in the region” is its support for proxy forces.
“Our strategy has been aimed at diminishing their capacity to support those proxy forces,” whether “it’s missiles headed to Hezbollah” or “inside of Lebanon or in Syria itself, as well as all the things they do to underwrite the Shia militias in Iraq, which fundamentally undermines” Iraq’s independence, he said.
In addition, Pompeo cited “Houthi proxy forces” in Yemen, which regularly fire “Iranian missiles” at Saudi Arabia.
“These are the kinds of activity that are incredibly destabilizing in the Middle East, and they are among the primary aims of our counter-Iran policy,” he said.
Indeed, The Washington Post reported on Saturday that US policy was working, at least in Lebanon, as it explained that Hezbollah “has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending.”
Citing Hezbollah sources, the Post reported that fighters were being furloughed or sent to the reserves, “where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all.” Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s television station, is shedding staff and canceling programs.
“The once ample spending programs that underpinned the group’s support among Lebanon’s historically impoverished Shia community have been slashed, including the supply of free medicines and even groceries to fighters, employees and their families,” the paper explained.
Editing by Nadia Riva