U.S. Sen. Angus King believes intelligence backs up the Trump administration’s claims of heightened Iranian military activity in the Middle East, but he is fearful that a “miscalculation” could draw the U.S. into a conflict.
“I don’t think there’s faulty intel here necessarily. I think the intel may be accurate,” King told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Thursday on “New Day.” “But the unanswered question again is, are they reacting to our assertions of action in the Middle East or are we reacting to them? That’s an unanswered question for me.”
The remarks from Maine’s junior senator come amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The Trump administration has deployed an aircraft carrier, strategic bombers and other military assets to reinforce troops across the Middle East, according to the Washington Post.
That came in response to intelligence, first reported last week by CNN, that Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf.
On Wednesday, the U.S. ordered all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave Iraq, where Iran has backed Shiite militias as part of a push for broader influence across the Middle East, according to the Washington Post. The Trump administration accused Iran of supporting “imminent attacks” on U.S. personnel in the region, but provided no details or evidence, the newspaper reported.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday accused Iran of ordering Houthi rebels in Yemen to attack with drones two Aramco oil pumping stations earlier this week, Bloomberg News reported.
But King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he is worried about “who is provoking whom?”
The Trump administration has moved to isolate the Middle Eastern nation since May 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal Iran reached with the U.S., the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union in 2015 under former President Barack Obama.
In April, the U.S. declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization,” the first time the U.S. has applied that designation to a part of another government, according to the Associated Press. The Trump administration also said it would no longer offer waivers from sanctions for countries that buy Iranian crude, a move that would primarily affect China and India and U.S. treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, the Associated Press has reported.
“I think it’s a very, very volatile, dangerous situation. I am gravely concerned because of the possibility of miscalculation, misunderstanding, misreading of some event and all of the sudden you’re on the ladder of escalation that could be dangerous for this country and for the Middle East,” King said.
But King expressed optimism over a recent report in the Washington Post that President Donald Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran despite his pledge to withdraw the U.S. from foreign wars.
“I think the president is absolutely right, according to the reporting we’ve head this morning, to slow this thing down and express a little restraint on some of his advisers, who seem to be getting us into a position where something pretty awful could happen,” King said.
Iran has made overtures toward a diplomatic resolution of the present tension, but that has been predicated on the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump has derided, according to Bloomberg News.