US President Donald Trump is apparently frustrated by advisors who are escalating military tensions with Iran, according to senior sources. The officials told the Washington Post that the President feels that his aides are rushing into a confrontation with Iran and that he still wants the government in Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear deal with him.
A senior Trump administration official told the Post that the president grew angry at the "warlike planning" of his advisors last week. "They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed," the official claimed. "There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page."
US National Security Advisor John Bolton is a fierce critic of Tehran and has been a vocal supporter of toppling its clerical and political establishment. "He [Trump] is not comfortable with all this 'regime change' talk," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He added that Trump felt that "regime change" echoed plans to remove ex-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the 2003 US invasion of his country.
Another official said that Bolton and Trump are "just in a different place" and that despite Trump's own criticism of Iran's government, he "wants to talk to the Iranians; he wants a deal."
News of the infighting comes weeks after warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, were deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to what the US considers "credible threats" from Iran.
Yesterday, three US officials told the New York Times that one of these threats was discovered through images of Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf loaded with missiles. They said that there was additional intelligence that Iranian proxy Shia militias were preparing to attack US army personnel in Iraq.
"This is all fake intelligence," Iranian Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi told a CNN presenter on Tuesday. "This intelligence is based on certain narrow minded agendas pursued by certain people in Washington, as well as in our own region."
Trump tweeted yesterday that reports about infighting are unfounded. "There is no infighting whatsoever," he insisted. "Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process. All sides, views and policies are covered. I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon."
Western officials told the WashingtonPost that they believe that the Trump administration could misread actions in the region. Iran's affiliation with Iraqi militias does not mean that it has absolute control over them, and the missiles spotted may be a defensive strategy rather than an offensive call to arms. They fear that an attack on US forces by an Iranian proxy could lead to an irreversible escalation, even though Tehran may not have given the direct order.
Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also called for "a period of calm so that everyone understands what the other side is thinking."