Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who served in Iraq, has said that national intelligence is currently being manipulated in order to exaggerate the threat that Iran may be to the United States and allies, The Washington Post reports. Gallego’s perspective has drawn extra consideration due to his service in Iraq, which has been largely recognized as a long-running military quagmire instigated under President George W. Bush on the basis of similarly questionable intelligence. The weapons of mass destruction, which were cited as the primary driver of the Iraq invasion under Bush, never materialized.
Gallego, who is now a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for the restraint of the more hawkish lawmakers who seem poised to advocate for conflict, as well as by the White House, where competing voices on national security continue to debate the path forward when it comes to Iran.
Gallego spoke with The Washington Post on the phone on Saturday after receiving a classified briefing Friday.
“What I saw was a lot of misinterpretation and wanting conflict coming from the administration and intelligence community,” Gallego said in the phone conversation. “Intel doesn’t show existential threats. Even what it shows, it doesn’t show threats to U.S. interests.”
This weekend we're joined by two congressmen and veterans of the war in Iraq to talk about new tensions of war in the Middle East. @RepAnthonyBrown and @RubenGallego Sunday night on @MSNBC 7-9 PM ET pic.twitter.com/gAlvK3CwzW— Kasie DC (@KasieDC) May 18, 2019
Gallego claims that at the center of the escalation are two individuals in particular: National Security Adviser John Bolton and Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas. Each of the two men have spoken publicly in support of conflict with Iran and, reportedly, made the case in private as well. Cotton, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has made cable news appearances in which he describes “multiple and credible sources of increased threats” from Iran.
Gallego also took to Twitter, echoing the sentiments he had expressed to The Washington Post.
“I get the same intel as Cotton,” he tweeted on Saturday. “He is greatly exaggerating the situation to spur us to war. Don’t fall for it.”
Cotton, who is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, did not respond to requests for comment following Gallego’s claims. A spokesperson for the National Security Council likewise did not immediately respond.
At the same time, reports have emerged that President Donald Trump has also been frustrated with the posture taken by the likes of Bolton and Cotton. Sources close to the president have said that he feels the two are getting ahead of his own diplomatic strategies. During the 2016 campaign, Trump indicated strongly that he would avoid such conflicts as president.