Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at her weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2019. Pelosi says the U.S. must avoid war with Iran, and she says the White House has "no business" moving toward a Middle East confrontation without approval from Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Congressional leaders get classified briefing on Iran

May 16, 2019 - 2:43 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders are receiving a classified briefing on Iran as members of both parties demand more information on the White House's claims of rising threats in the Middle East.

The briefing Thursday with the so-called Gang of Eight comes after Democratic lawmakers warned President Donald Trump against war with Iran and criticized the White House for not keeping Congress informed of the rising threat in the Middle East.

Asked Thursday at the White House if escalating tensions with Iran will lead to war, Trump replied: "I hope not."

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and has re-imposed sanctions on Tehran that are crippling its economy.

U.S. officials are reporting heightened threats in the region from Iran and have sent military assets there to protect U.S. troops and the interests of both America and its allies.

State Department officials said threats in the region were credible and based on intelligence showing Iranian-backed militias had been moving personnel and weaponry as well as stepping up surveillance of U.S. and U.S.-affiliated facilities in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The administration's warning about Iran is being met with skepticism in the U.S. and among foreign allies, a legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was based on false intelligence. The skepticism extends to Congress, where lawmakers have largely been kept in the dark.

The Senate will receive a classified briefing on Iran on Tuesday, according to Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House has requested a classified briefing as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a member of the Gang of Eight, said briefings are necessary because informing leaders "is no substitute for the full membership of the Congress." She said a failure to inform Congress is "part of a pattern" for the Trump administration "that is not right" because the power to declare war resides with the Congress.

"So I hope that the president's advisers recognize that they have no authorization to go forward in any way" against Iran, Pelosi said.


Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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