The US State Department has purportedly failed to meet a deadline to provide conclusive information to a congressional committee tasked with investigating whether an annual arms control report meant to politically demonize Iran and justify a military action against the Islamic Republic.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday that the US State Department officials had missed a May 23 deadline to brief three congressional committee chairmen regarding the report on “adherence to and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments.”
The Democratic chairmen of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a May 16 letter to provide a State Department briefing and documents no later than Thursday.
The sources said no such communication had been received and the issue raised speculations among congressmen that the report had politicized and skewed assessments against Iran in a bid to lay the groundwork to justify a military action.
The three chairmen told Pompeo in their letter that they were “deeply concerned” the arms control report may have been produced by political appointees “disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning.”
The chairmen said the US State Department was legally bound to submit to Congress a “detailed report” on compliance by the US and other countries with international arms control accords but this year’s report was only 12 pages long that contained “no meaningful discussion” and consisted “largely of hypotheticals or opinion.”
Several sources told Reuters that the report made them wonder if the administration of US President Donald Trump was painting Iran in the darkest light possible just like what the George W. Bush administration did by using bogus and exaggerated intelligence to justify its 2003 aggression against Iraq.
“It’s piling inference upon inference here to try to create a scary picture,” said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity.
“There is significant concern that the entire sort of purpose … was to help build a case for military intervention in Iran in a way that seems very familiar,” the official added, referring to the Bush administration’s use of erroneous intelligence before the Iraqi war.
Tensions started to mount between Tehran and Washington in May last year, when Trump pulled his country out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticisms.
The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washington’s exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up the pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and sending military reinforcements, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, to the Middle East