Intelligence officials have declassified a photograph of an Iranian missile on a small boat in the Persian Gulf in their efforts to help show the increasing threat from Iran as divisions grow within the Trump administration about what the intelligence means, the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has become frustrated with some of his top advisers over his administration’s approach to Iran, according to the Washington Post.
CNN first reported last week that US intelligence showed Iran moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf. The intelligence was one of the critical reasons the US decided to move an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the region, several US officials with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN.
The photographs of the Iranian missiles are the intelligence that caused the White House to increase its warnings about a threat from Iran, the Times reported Wednesday.
Two US officials told the newspaper that the declassified photograph alone isn’t convincing enough validation of a threat from Iran. The declassified photograph has not been released by the Department of Defense.
Other classified photographs show Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been designated by the Trump administration as a terrorist group, loading missiles onto the boats at several Iranian ports, the two US officials told the Times.
The officials warned that releasing other photos could compromise confidential sources and methods of gathering intelligence, the Times reported.
The intelligence has sparked heated debate among the White House, Pentagon, the CIA and US allies over the level of threat from Iran, according to the Times.
Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believe the photographs and other intelligence could indicate that Iran is preparing to attack US forces, the Times noted.
Other senior administration officials, congressional members and US allies feel that Iran’s actions may mostly be defensive against the US, according the newspaper.
The Post reported that Trump has been angry and annoyed recently over what he believes is “warlike planning” from his top advisers, including Bolton, who has advocated for regime change in Tehran. Trump is concerned that the US could be rushed into a military confrontation with Iran, and instead wishes to pursue a diplomatic approach to easing tensions, several US officials told the Post.
National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis pushed back against the reporting, telling the Post that this “doesn’t accurately reflect reality.”
Trump has denied that there’s any infighting among his administration regarding Iran policy.
“Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”
On Thursday, the Trump administration is set to hold a classified briefing on Iran with congressional leaders from both parties and top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committee.