Schiff: Evidence of Iran Being Behind Tanker Attacks Is 'Very Strong'

June 17, 2019

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, admitted Sunday that intelligence proves Iranian responsibility for the recent tanker attacks.

Schiff said the evidence is "very strong and compelling" that Iran is behind the attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, putting him in line with the administration on the facts of the case.

"There's no question that Iran is behind the attacks. I think the evidence is very strong and compelling," he said. "This was a class-A screw-up by Iran to insert a mine on the ship. It didn't detonate. They had to go back and retrieve it. I can imagine there are some Iranian heads rolling for that botched operation."

However, he said this "solid evidence" was not enough to get buy-in on a united response by the U.S. and its allies. He said America is "isolated" on account of the administration’s policies, and even blamed those policies for Iran’s assaults on commercial transports.

"Our allies warned the United States, I think our intelligence agencies warned policymakers, that this kind of Iranian reaction was likely a result of a policy of withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Agreement," Schiff said. "So what we see is a split of the US from our allies and we see Russia and China coming together and having Iran's back."

He blamed Trump’s "maximum pressure" strategy for Iran’s aggressive behavior. This sharply conflicts with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assessment of the situation. Pompeo accurately accounted for Iran’s long history of unjustified violence in the Middle East, including meddling in other countries’ affairs and matters of oil trade. Yet for Schiff, American policies have "heightened the risk of conflict."

"For my colleague, Senator Cotton, to advocate that we attack Iran and provoke a war, that there's no Congressional authorization necessary, I think is exactly the wrong answer," Schiff said.

This appears to mischaracterize Cotton’s position, which is that a retaliatory response is within Trump’s authority and is justified in the case of unprovoked Iranian attacks. He explicitly said he did not advocate starting a full-scale war with Iran.

Going beyond Cotton, Schiff also blamed Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton for supposedly pushing Trump into war with Iran. His substantive criticism of Bolton was not a military decision, however, but merely the imposition of sanctions on Iran.

"Is that an effort to scuttle the president's effort to initiate a dialogue?" Schiff asked about Bolton announcing sanctions.

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Free Beacon, Bolton said Trump's resolve to deter Iran is sure but they are approaching the situation carefully. "It's a very precarious situation," Bolton said.

Schiff finished his comments by supporting the Nuclear Deal that Trump pulled out of, saying Iran’s unprovoked attacks were "foreseeable" and Trump should have treated Iran better.

"This was eminently foreseeable. These attacks on shipping were eminently foreseeable, and the fact that our reneging on the deal hasn't made us safer is part of the proof," Schiff said.