Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, said there is more to be concerned about with Iran than “business as usual.”
The new worry goes above the status quo for the country that routinely chants “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” Thornberry said to a group of reporters on Thursday.
According to the Washington Examiner, Thornberry has been briefed twice over the past two weeks by the U.S. Central Command and members of the intelligence community said he is “absolutely convinced” the current threat is more serious and is a “cause for greater concern.”
“I don’t think it’s business as usual. It is cause for greater concern,” Thornberry said. “And a great part of that concern relates to Americans being targeted. So yeah, something else is going on.”
U.S. and Iranian tensions in the Gulf region have risen sharply over the last two weeks. The Pentagon has deployed additional forces to the region in response to perceived Iranian threats, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, a contingent of B-52 bombers, the USS Arlington amphibious landing ship, and a Patriot missile defense battery. U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria are operating on high alert, and the State Department has ordered all non-emergency personnel to evacuate Iraq.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, and CIA Director Gina Haspel are scheduled to brief all members of Congress on Iran early next week.
The intelligence that led to the deployments included photographs of missiles being loaded onto boats by members of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and conversations about plots by Iranian-backed militias to attack U.S. troops. To indicate the seriousness of the threat, Pentagon officials declassified, but have not released, a photo showing an Iranian missile on a small boat in the Gulf.
Analysts have long been concerned that Iran could use missiles deployed on small boats to swarm U.S. ships in the Gulf. Thus far, Iranian boats have limited themselves to harassing behavior, such as dangerous approaches, but Iranian swarm tactics could overwhelm ship defenses in more aggressive scenarios.
Thornberry said Iran’s actions come at a time that politics in the United States have become so partisan that it is difficult to come together: “What I worry about is … if our partisanship has become so entrenched that we can’t look at facts anymore when it comes to national security and objectively try to evaluate them if, you know, Trump is doing it then it has to be bad or if, you know, Trump is doing it, has to be good. Whichever side you’re on, I just think we have to be cautious about that.”