President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused news outlets of publishing reports that falsely portray his administration’s approach to escalating tensions in the Middle East, and re-upped his show of confidence that Iranian leaders will eventually come to the negotiating table.
“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,” the president wrote on Twitter. “There is no infighting whatsoever.”
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“Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process,” Trump continued. “All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”
The State Department on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, a move made in the wake of intelligence indicating an increased risk of an attack from Iran or its proxies in the region.
Iran last week announced that it would end its compliance with parts of a 2015 nuclear agreement a year after Trump withdrew the United States from the deal, which was negotiated by former President Barack Obama, because he thought it was too weak. Trump retaliated by ramping up its sanctions targeting Iran.
However, Trump also said he would be willing to reenter talks with Iran. The president campaigned in opposition to unnecessary military conflict in the Middle East and has withdrawn most American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
Iranian leaders in the past have said they won’t consider negotiations unless Trump returns the U.S. to the nuclear agreement.
The New York Times first reported on Monday that Trump was considering sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. The president on Tuesday dismissed the report as “fake news,” adding that he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that” if he decided to get aggressive with Iran.
The Times piece described “sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.” The latest proposal was reported to stem from the request of John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, who in the past has pushed to topple Iran’s Islamist-led leadership.
Other senior officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have warned against engaging the United States in another conflict in the Middle East, likening the current situation to the precursors to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Lawmakers have demanded more information about the alleged threats from Iran. Congressional leaders are slated to sit for a confidential briefing with administration officials on Thursday.