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Senior Trump administration officials brief members of Congress on Iran after weeks of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf that have alerted Capitol Hill to possible military confrontation with the Islamic Republic. (May 21)
AP, AP

WASHINGTON – High officials of the Trump administration told lawmakers on Tuesday that the US military operations in the Middle East are purely defensive and do not aim to provoke a war with Iran, although in Congress Concerns about a possible military conflict arise.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan secretly briefed members of the House of Representatives and the Senate on what they called "credible intelligence services," suggesting a possible Iranian attack on US forces in the region.

Shanahan said the Trump government's decision to use B-52 bombers and other military assets in the Persian Gulf prevented a possible strike against US interests.

"We have attacks based on our attitude of assets – deterrent attacks against American forces," he told reporters after the briefings in Congress.

"Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculations," Shanahan added. "We do not want the situation to escalate, it's about deterrence, not war."

But legislators largely disagreed on partisan standards of what the Iranian threat is and whether the Trump administration has responded to the situation better or worse.

Some Democrats have sounded an alarm on Tuesday that the government will select Trump intelligence to justify a military conflict with Iran.

Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (L) speaks with media representatives while Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo (R) listens to a closed briefing for Senate members on May 21, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Acting Secretary Shanahan and Secretary Pompeo joined Joseph Dunford, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to inform Congress members about Iran. (Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

"We are concerned that information is used to reach a goal rather than make a decision," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. D-Md. Told US TODAY after he and other House Democrats met privately with former CIA Director John Brennan and former Ambassador Wendy Sherman, both of whom worked in the Obama administration.

"Let's hope the administration does not streamline a step toward war," added Hoyer.

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Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the president and his advisers are sending mixed messages about the severity of the Iranian threat. While Pompeo and others have spoken about "credible" information about an Iranian attack on US military personnel, President Donald Trump on Monday suggested that there is no imminent threat.

"We have no indication that anything has happened or is going to happen, but if it does, it will obviously be hit hard," Trump told reporters on Monday night when he left the White House for a rally

"It's hard to know what the government represents at this time," Schiff told reporters following the meeting with Brennan and Sherman. He said he was deeply concerned that the lack of "clear thinking, plans (or strategies) by the government had only multiplied the risks of conflict."

MP Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan-based Democrat and former CIA analyst who Iranian proxy groups said the Trump government's incoherent strategy risked the possibility of an accidental conflict.

"The president wavered between stating that he cares only about the nuclear tracts and the increasing threat on Twitter to essentially cut Iran off the map," Slotkin said. "If I and you do not understand the US strategy, you can bet that the Iranians do not understand them, and if no side can decide which actions are offensive or defensive, we're going in the wrong direction and sliding towards war."

Trump promised to end Iran on Monday after a Katyusha rocket landed in Baghdad's heavily fortified state Green Zone less than a mile from the US embassy The rocket did not cause any injuries Officials believe it was over East Baghdad fired, an area controlled by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Trump said war would lead to the "end" of Iran.

Skoltin said Iran was a malicious one Actors have been in the region for decades, and all recent findings needed to be included in this broader context.

"She said. "It has to be seen in context, not just to point out a new or escalating threat."

The Republicans said the Trump administration's actions were prudent and that the threat posed by Iran was direct and worrying.

"Intelligence was pretty clear, it was new and escalating," said the Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul. "They are the ones who fired a rocket in the green zone near our embassy," he said.

McCaul did not provide any concrete evidence to prove it. He argued, however, that the actions of the Trump government were "purely defensive."

He and other Republicans rejected suggestions that Trump's US military operations and sharp rhetoric and its advisors could lead to misperceptions or misunderstandings that could lead to a war with Iran.

But the Democrats said they feared that. They note that since the Trump government's withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, there are no formal communication channels with the regime. This Obama-era deal aimed to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"There is a great risk that Iran will miscalculate and strike in a way they did not expect," said MP Adam Smith, D-Wash. , Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "There is a risk of miscalculation on both sides, which remains my biggest concern."

He said Pompeo and other officials told lawmakers that there were some "return channels" they could talk to when they needed them. But the Democrats were not reassured.

"This is a blind escalation, with the hope that the Iranians will eventually come to the table or that the Iranians will rise and overthrow the regime," said Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ,

He said Iran's threats are a predictable response to the Trump administration's efforts to squeeze Iran into severe economic sanctions and diplomatically isolate the regime by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and urging other parties to give it up ,

The Trump administration should have known that the Iranians were considering attacking American assets in the region, Murphy said, arguing that this was "completely predictable given the steps we have taken."

The US military show has done nothing to change Iranian behavior, he said.

"The Iranians are no closer to each other than ever before, and they do not seem to be retreating from a standpoint of military provocation," said Murphy & # 39; kill and kidnap American soldiers & # 39;

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