UN chief urges ‘restraint’ amid US-Iran tensions; Trump irked by his top aides pushing for war

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UNITED NATIONS, May 16 (APP):Amid heightened United States-Iran tensions in the Persian Gulf, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Thursday called for “maximum restraint” and preventing any escalation, as American media reported that President Donald Trump is “frustrated” with his top advisors — John Bolton and Mike Pompeo — who, he believes, are pushing the U.S. into a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

“The Secretary-General is following with growing concern recent incidents and hardening rhetoric in the Gulf region, which threaten to further destabilize an already volatile situation,” Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesman, said in response to a question at the regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York..

Responding to questions, the spokesman said that the UN chief’s good offices were available to the parties to resolve their issues provided both sides agree.

Meanwhile, a report in The Washington Post says that President Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions with Iran and wants to speak directly with the Islamic Republic’s leaders, but some hawks in his administration, particularly National Security advisor Bolton and Secretary of state Pompeo, are engaged in “warlike planning.”
“They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,” the Post quoted a senior administration official as saying. “There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.”
Bolton had been a vocal advocate of regime change in Iran before joining the White House last year. Pompeo, a former CIA director, believes in gunboat diplomacy and strong-arm tactics towards Iran.
Trump “wants to talk to the Iranians; he wants a deal” and is open to negotiation with the Iranian government, the official told the Post.
“He is not comfortable with all this ‘regime change’ talk,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan put forward a plan which he had updated on Bolton’s orders — last week in a meeting of top national security officials that envisions deploying some 120,000 American troops to the Middle East region “should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.”
Trump rejected the New York Times report as “fake news.”
“I think it’s fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
On the other hand, American lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are growing more concerned about tensions with Iran, and urging President Trump to stop keeping them in the dark about his next step amid talks of a military confrontation.

The Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy through harsh sanctions and hostile rhetoric has put Washington on a collision course with Tehran.

The Times reported Tuesday that after introducing plans to starve Iranian people and zero out the country’s oil exports, hawks in Trump’s team – led by National Security Adviser Bolton – have gone as far as drawing up plans for a possible military strike that could involve sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East.
The talk of war was pushed up another notch on Sunday after unknown assailants targeted four vessels, including two tankers from Saudi Arabia, off the United Arab Emirates in mysterious acts of “sabotage.”
Washington has since accused Tehran of planning “imminent” attacks in the region. On Wednesday, the US ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and consulate in Erbil.
The Pentagon has followed up on the threats by sending B-52 nuclear-capable bombers and a aircraft carrier to the region.
Democratic lawmakers have called on Trump’s White House to reopen diplomatic channels with Iran and tone down their hostile rhetoric, reminding Trump and his officials that they cannot launch a war without first consulting Congress.
“They have no business declaring a war without the consent of Congress,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
“I think all of us are in the dark over here,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters outside the Senate,
The Minority Leader in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, said acting Defence Secretary Shanahan and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, needed to brief senators.
“There’s an alarming lack of clarity here,” he said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “There’s a lack of strategy and there’s a lack of consultation.”
“An adventure like this, 120,000 troops or a large number of troops, should have to be approved by Congress. It should certainly be discussed with the Congress,” Schumer said.
“The President ought to come up with a strategy and make it clear to Congress. President Trump, what is your strategy? Where are you headed and why aren’t you talking to Congress about it?” he continued.
In a move to quell lawmakers’ frustration, administration officials are said to be holding a briefing for the Senate and House leaders from both parties later on Thursday.
The lawmakers are also baffled by contradicting remarks coming from American officials in Washington and military commanders on the ground in the region.
While some officials have been insisting that Iran is now posing an increased threat to US personnel in Syria and Iraq, British Major General Chris Ghika, the deputy commander of the US-led coalitions’ alleged anti-terror operations in Syria and Iraq, has said that the threat level from Iran has not changed
The British Defence Ministry also backed Ghika’s assessment Wednesday.
Republican Senator Jerry Moran told CNN after a classified briefing on global threats with directors of the CIA and the NSA that “there is a lot more to be known before decisions are made” about going to war with Iran.
Moran, a member of the Defence Appropriations subcommittee that held the briefing in the Capitol, said Ghika’s assessment “is worthy of further exploration,” Moran said.
In an apparent reference to the Iraq War, which was launched 2003 on the basis of flawed and downright fake intelligence about the country’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, Moran said that “we know that from history, we know that as a practical matter people’s lives are at stake.”
New Jersey Sentor Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, echoed the same stance.
“We don’t need another Iraq weapons of mass destruction moment, where we are engaged in a conflict without understanding, testing the veracity of the intelligence that might lead us to a set of actions, number one,” he said. “Number two, you can’t make foreign policy and national security decisions in the blind and that’s what we’re being asked to do with the lack of information.”