John Bowden – The Hill May 16, 2019
President Trump has reportedly informed acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want to see the U.S. go to war with Iran, sending a message to hawkish White House aides who have been accused of pushing the U.S. toward conflict.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump raised the issue Wednesday during a briefing on the status of U.S. forces in the Middle East in the White House Situation Room. The president reportedly directly informed Shanahan that he did not want to see a conflict between the two countries.
News of Trump’s reported remarks to Shanahan comes as the president has sought to publicly tamp down reports of infighting among his staff, including national security adviser John Bolton.
“The Fake News Washington Post, and even more Fake News New York Times, are writing stories that there is infighting with respect to my strong policy in the Middle East. There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Different opinions are expressed, and I make a decisive and simple decision — it’s a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered.”
….Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision – it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 15, 2019
Bolton, in particular, has been at the center of criticism from some on the left for his aggressive rhetoric about Iran and has been accused of taking a hawkish stance toward policy there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also faced criticism over the threat posed by Iran.
The two men have reportedly drawn the president’s ire in recent days. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump has grown frustrated with his top advisers over Iran, saying hard-line aides could rush the U.S. into a military struggle with Tehran and break his campaign pledge to avoid costly foreign wars.
“They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,” one senior Trump administration official said of the two aides. “There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.”
Trump, that official added, wants to speak with leaders of Iran and find a diplomatic solution and is not comfortable with talk of war with the country.
“He is not comfortable with all this ‘regime change’ talk,” the official said.
The Pentagon has reportedly presented the president with options for the deployment of 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East to respond to Iranian attempts to construct a nuclear weapon or attack U.S. interests. On Sunday, Bolton announced that a carrier strike force, as well as a bomber task group, had been assigned to the Persian Gulf