AP NEWS

Robert Menendez blasts administration for failing to consult on Iran

May 15, 2019

Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blasted the Trump administration Wednesday for failing to brief lawmakers on the decision to order all nonessential U.S. diplomatic staff to leave Iraq amid sharply escalating tensions with neighboring Iran.

A briefing for the entire U.S. Senate on the administration’s decision and the threats that led to it is “in the works,” committee Chairman James Risch said. The Idaho Republican has been briefed on what U.S. officials say they have observed in the region, but Mr. Menendez, has not.

“To still be waiting for a briefing next week when all these things are happening already, the timetable is not even acceptable,” the New Jersey Democrat told The Washington Times Wednesday.

“The Trump administration has not provided any information at all to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran,” Mr. Menendez complained at a committee hearing. “We have repeatedly reminded the administration of its responsibilities to this committee.”

A private briefing for Mr. Risch “is no substitute for directly briefing this committee today, when there is clearly actionable intelligence available,” Mr. Menendez added.

The removal of diplomatic personnel from U.S. embassies around the world is often a preventative measure ahead of a conflict, but U.S. officials have yet to clarify the reason to remove some nonessential embassy staff from Baghdad and the consulate in the Kurdish city of Erbil.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the White House ordered up a Pentagon plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the region should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump denied the report Tuesday, but said his administration was prepared to act if Iran lashed out.