In an interview with Kathy Gilsinan and Mike Giglio, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff didn’t deny that the intel is concerning, but he cautioned against responding quickly with an an ill-planned confrontation.
“The American public finds itself in a fog of something short of war, with few ways to assess what could be coming,” Gilsinan and Giglio write. This public confusion about unspecified threats feels uncomfortably similar to the lead-up to the Iraq War—with the very important difference that the president keeps saying he doesn’t want a war. Another similarity: The U.S. and its European allies are divided about the severity of the threat in the Middle East.
Conflict with Iran feels less likely than it did even at the start of the week, when The New York Times reported that the administration was considering a plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked U.S. assets. (President Donald Trump denied that.) Asked on Thursday if the U.S. would go to war with Iran, Trump responded, “I hope not.”
Watch for whether Trump continues to publicly contradict his hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton. Will Trump or Bolton offer any clues this week about the nature of the intel that pushed Washington to gear up for a fight with Tehran? As long as officials keep talking up Iran’s threats while Americans remain in the dark, this saga isn’t over.
— Gabby Deutch
🗓The Week Ahead in National Security
‣ Monday: The Senate Armed Services Committee holds its first round of closed-door hearings on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets the budget for the military.
‣ Tuesday: The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. on the Kremlin’s use of “tools of malign political influence” to undermine democracy.
‣ Wednesday: Mike Pompeo headlines the Israeli embassy’s Independence Day event in Washington. Two years ago today, Donald Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall.
‣ Thursday: European Parliament elections begin, a test case to measure the far right’s reach in Europe.
‣ Friday: Trump and Melania leave for a state visit to Japan. Watch for how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will urge Trump to keep the pressure on North Korea.
🌏 Defense & diplomacy
America’s Jekyll-Hyde Russia policy: Mike Pompeo and Vladimir Putin met in Sochi on Wednesday in an effort to improve relations between the two countries. (Russia didn’t look great in the Mueller report.) It was another example of the alternate realities that Trump and his most senior diplomat inhabit: Pompeo condemned Russia’s interference in American elections and warned Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov not to do so again.
Trump follows a “good cop, bad cop” routine with Pompeo when it comes to Putin, write Kathy Gilsinan and Peter Nicholas: Pompeo presses Putin on the tough stuff, such as Moscow propping up Nicolás Maduro, while Trump makes sure that “relations at the top stay cordial.”