WASHINGTON — The intelligence pointing to Iran as the culprit in last week’s attacks on two oil tankers “is pretty strong” even as allies are hesitant to blame Tehran, Rep. Adam Schiff said Wednesday.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Schiff (D-Cal.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, also said that intelligence over the past several months clearly indicated that Iran would react when pushed into the corner economically and politically.
“There is always the risk that sources of intelligence can be wrong or the analysis is wrong,’ Schiff said. “I think the intelligence here is pretty strong that Iran is responsible for the attack.”
Schiff said that once the U.S. withdrew from a treaty limiting Iran’s production of materials that could make a nuclear weapon — “an agreement that Iran was complying with,” Schiff said — intelligence began to show Iran’s restiveness.
That was accelerated by the harsh economic sanctions applied to Iran by the U.S. and Washington’s efforts to get other nations to also apply similar sanctions, Schiff said.
“This was predictable,” Schiff said. “The intelligence did warn of these conflicts with Iran.”
He said the U.S withdrawal from the treaty did “not isolate Iran but isolated us from our allies.
“Our allies warned us this would be the position we would be in,” Schiff said. “They are reluctant to lock arms with us now because these events were predictable.”
He also said that, even if the intelligence were murky, the need to protect ships in the Strait of Hormuz and nearby waters is an international concern requiring international action.
“You make the argument that even if you don’t know who is responsible, you have to protect the shipping going through the Strait of Hormuz,” Schiff said. “This needs to be an effort we do not embark on alone.”
That may be a challenge given the Trump administration’s treatment of allies, Schiff said.
“Seeing the policy of going alone, of castigating our allies, when we need our allies, they are nowhere to be found,” he said. “We need to work with our allies to de-escalate the situation, because a conflict with Iran would be catastrophic.”