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Posted by admin on May 08, 2019

The Daily BeastPhoto Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/Photos from GettyOn Sunday, the National Security Council announced that the U.S. was sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf in response to “troubling and escalatory” warnings from Iran—an eye-popping move that raised fears of a potential military confrontation with Tehran. Justifying the move, anonymous government officials cited intelligence indicating Iran had crafted plans to use proxies to strike U.S. forces, both off the coast of Yemen and stationed in Iraq. National Security Adviser John Bolton also discussed the intelligence on the record. A consensus appeared to be emerging: that Iran was gearing up for war.But multiple sources close to the situation told The Daily Beast that the administration blew it out of proportion, characterizing the threat as more significant than it actually was. “It’s not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, so much as overreacting to it,” said one U.S. government official briefed on it. Another source familiar with the situation agreed that the Trump administration’s response was an “overreaction” but didn’t dispute that a threat exists. Gen. Qasem Soleimani—the head of the Quds Force, Iran’s covert action arm—has told proxy forces in Iraq that a conflict with the U.S. will come soon, this source noted. “I would characterize the current situation as shaping operations on both sides to tilt the field in preparation for a possible coming conflict,” continued the second source, who is also a U.S. government official. “The risk is a low-level proxy unit miscalculating and escalating things. We’re sending a message with this reaction to the intelligence, even though the threat might not be as imminent as portrayed.” The source added that the administration’s steps are a way to tell the Iranian government that the U.S. will hold them responsible for their surrogates’ actions. A third U.S. government official close to the situation described the administration’s response this way: “It is meant to send a clear message and remove any ambiguity from a tense situation. We’re demonstrating the overwhelming capability we can bring to the region.”Iran’s specific intentions may be a subject of debate, but there’s little doubt that it has the capability to hit U.S. forces through proxy groups, as the Quds Force demonstrated with lethal efficiency during the Iraq war. According to the State Department, Iranian-backed militants in Iraq killed an estimated 603 U.S. troops between 2003 and 2011, many of them the result of armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles supplied by the Quds Force. The Daily Beast has not reviewed the intelligence itself, which is all but certain to be classified. That means that the characterization of the intel—both on the record and anonymously—is crucial. And in this case, there is not a consensus in intelligence and military circles on whether the administration’s interpretation, used to justify the deployment of an addition U.S. aircraft carrier and Air Force bomber task force to the Gulf, was accurate. The interpretation of intelligence, particularly on Iran, can often provoke disagreements within the national security bureaucracy. In 2007, a National Intelligence Estimate concluded with “high confidence” that “Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003, prompting a controversy over the language used in its top line judgments and fury from those who saw Iran’s public enrichment of nuclear weapons fuel and development of ballistic missiles as a key part of its program. A senior administration official insisted the Iranian threat intelligence in this case was strong, and said officials in the office of Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drafted the statement and sent it to NSC specifically asking for Bolton to approve it and that it go out from the White House, rather than the Department of Defense, to highlight the threat’s significance.President Trump signaled a har

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