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Dual hearings on Capitol Hill focus on Trump's Iran policy

AP  |  Washington 

As questions mount over Donald Trump's tough talk on Iran, top national security officials are heading to Capitol Hill to brief But skeptical Democrats have asked for a second opinion.

The competing closed-door sessions Tuesday, unusual and potentially polarising, come after weeks of escalating tensions in the that have raised alarms over a possible military confrontation with

Lawmakers are warning the it cannot take the country into war without approval from Congress, and the back-to-back briefings show the wariness among Democrats, and some Republicans, over the White House's sudden policy shifts in the

Trump, veering between bombast and conciliation in his quest to contain Iran, threatened Monday to meet provocations by with "great force," but also said he's willing to negotiate.

"We'll see what happens," Trump told reporters as he left the for a campaign rally. He said has been "very hostile." "We have no indication that anything's happened or will happened, but if it does, it will be met, obviously, with great force," Trump said. "We'll have no choice." Trump said while there are no talks with Iran he still wants to hear from them, "if they're ready."

Over the past several weeks the US has sent an and other resources to the region, and evacuated non-essential personnel from Iraq, amid unspecified threats the administration says are linked to Iran.

The administration is sending Mike Pompeo, Acting and other top brass, including Gen Joseph Dunford, the of the Joint Chiefs of staff, for closed-door briefings Tuesday with both the House and

But House Democrats, deeply skeptical of the information from the Trump officials and mindful of the drumbeat of claims during the run-up to the War invited former CIA and former State Department Wendy Sherman, who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.

Brennan, an outspoken Trump critic, does not have a formal briefing planned but is prepared to answer questions on Iran and is willing to do the same for Republicans, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. The intent, the person said, is to provide information and not to be partisan.

Top Democrats say the US from the Iran nuclear deal, a complex accord negotiated during the to prevent the country from nuclear weapons production.

Trump's allies in Congress, including GOP Sen. of South Carolina, say the threats from Iran are real. Graham urged Trump to "stand firm" and said he received his own briefing over the weekend from John Bolton, Trump's

"It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq," Graham tweeted. "If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response." But Democratic Rep. of Arizona, an War veteran, tweeted that after having received "the same" intelligence briefing, that was not his conclusion.

"That is not what is being said. This is total information bias to draw the conclusion he wants for himself and the media," Gallego tweeted.

Sen Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said it's important to more fully understand the situation. "I think Iranians think that our moves are offensive, we think their moves are offensive, that's how you get into wars by mistake," he said.

Graham's reference to Iran having attacked ships appeared to be a further indication that the has concluded that Iran was behind the reported attack May 12 on four commercial vessels off the coast of the

At the outset of an investigation into those apparent attacks, which damaged vessels of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and but caused no injuries, U.S. officials had said they appeared to be carried out by Iran.

A said Monday the probe was finished and evidence still pointed at Iran, although the did not provide details. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Sunday, a rocket landed near the in the Green Zone of Iraq's capital of Baghdad, days after nonessential U.S. staff were ordered to evacuate from diplomatic posts in the country. No one was reported injured. Iraqi Gen told that the rocket was believed to have been fired from eastern Baghdad, an area home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.

Defense officials said no additional Iranian threats or incidents had emerged in the days since the USS Abraham Lincoln group arrived in the late last week.

Iran, meanwhile, announced that it has quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67 per cent limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 21 2019. 11:36 IST