Emails with the latest news
Receive current news and special reports. The news and stories that are important delivered on weekday mornings.
By Dan De Luce
WASHINGTON – Senators from both sides of the aisle called on the Trump administration to explain why it had evacuated US diplomatic missions to Iraq and inform lawmakers about the alleged Iranian threats that prompted the move.
Senator Bob Menendez, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the Trump administration "to immediately inform this committee of the decision to order embassy officials to leave, as well as clarify what Iran may intend to do and to make plans to go to war with Iran. "
At a committee hearing, Menendez said that there are only two reasons to evacuate US missions in Iraq: Americans working in the missions are at risk or "in preparation for military action in Iran."
The New Jersey Senator said it was the duty of the committee to assist in writing laws to authorize the use of military force and to oversee the State Department and the safety of its employees.
"Nevertheless, the Trump administration has not provided this committee with any information on the background to its decisions and planned activities in Iraq or Iran," he said.
Menendez added that Congress had not authorized a war against Iran, and if the Trump government "had thought about military action with Iran, it would have to come to Congress for approval.
At the same hearing, Republican senator Mitt Romney from Utah agreed with Menendez "on the need for secret information on affairs in Iraq" and that "I hope that either the entire committee or perhaps the chair and the senior member in to be able to have this kind of briefing "
Senate Senate Foreign Minister Senator Jim Risch, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said comprehensive information from the entire Senate was "in progress".
Sen. Lindsey Graham, an outspoken advocate of tough action against Iran and frequent defender of President Donald Trump, also said that the State Department and the Department of Defense should inform legislators about the reasons for the evacuation of US missions in Iraq.
"I want to call on the State Department and the Department of Defense to come here and explain what's going on," Graham told reporters. "Because I have no idea what the threat current is beyond what I read in the paper."
He added, "I think there are a lot of people in my shoes who will help stand up to Iran, but we need to understand what we are doing."
The foreign ministry ordered Wednesday the departure of non-emergency employees from the US embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in the northern city of Erbil, reiterating a warning to American citizens not to travel to Iraq.
The announcement did not specify how many employees were affected, and no details were provided on the threat to Americans in Iraq.
The move took place a few days after the government announced the use of an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers in the Middle East, as Iran and its deputies had not threatened American interests in the region.
However, a senior British military officer directly disagreed with the US assessment on Tuesday, saying there was no heightened threat from Iran or its deputies in Iraq and Syria.
Major General Christopher Ghika, Deputy Commander of Operation Inherent Resolve – the US-led coalition that fights against the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria – said, "There was no heightened threat from Iran-sponsored forces in Iraq and Syria."
The United States Central Command issued a statement denying the comments of the British General.
Democrats in Congress have accused the Trump administration of ruthless action and rhetoric that could trigger an unnecessary war against Iran.
The Trump administration has defended its approach, saying that it only wants to protect the US staff and make it clear that it will react if Iran or its deputies are targeted at Americans.