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Trump's closest advisers are pushing him to go to war with Iran, but the president is so far resisting

Tom Porter , Business Insider US
 Jun 21, 2019, 05:51 PM
National Security Advisor John Bolton (R) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talk to reporters during a meeting of his cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House February 12, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • In the White House, hawks and doves are vying for influence over the president as tensions with Iran escalate.
  • National Security Advisor John Bolton has reportedly been joined by CIA director Gina Haspel and Senator Lindsey Graham in urging Trump to take military action.
  • The Pentagon, Senator Rand Paul, and Fox News' host and Trump confidant Tucker Carlson are advocating restraint.
  • Trump has so far resisted calls for military action, and on Thursday night abruptly reversed a decision to hit Iran with air strikes.
  • In recent weeks tensions between Iran and the US have flared, with the US accusing Iran of being behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa's homepage for more stories.

A battle is being waged in the White House between administration officials, members of congress and media allies over whether President Trump should order military action in Iran as tensions between Washington and Tehran intensify.

On Thursday night, Trump reportedly ordered military airstrikes against Iranian radar and missile batteries in retaliation for the downing of a US drone by Iran, then abruptly walked back the decision.

The events shows that US policy towards Iran remains on a knife edge, as hawks favoring conflict with Iran and doves opposed to military action vie for influence.

The hawk faction is reportedly led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has long urged military action and regime change inside Iran. The New York Times reported Thursday that he is backed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Fox News star Sean Hannity, a friend and supporter of the president, on his show Thursday was hawkish about the prospect of conflict with Iran, saying that Trump would "bomb the hell out of" the country if its leaders did not rapidly seek negotiations.

Some of Trump's closest congressional allies, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, are also pushing Trump to respond with force, reported Politico.

"The only thing Iran and every other thuggish regime understands is Strength and Pain," tweeted Senator Graham Thursday.

Trump has so far resisted their calls to take action, only just - stepping back from the brink of military conflict Thursday night.

The president campaigned in 2016 to end US military entanglements overseas, and referred to the pledge in remarks to reporters Thursday.

"Look, I said I want to get out of these endless wars, I campaigned on that, I want to get out," he said.

The president seemed reluctant to pin the blame on regime leaders in Tehran, remarking: "I imagine someone made a mistake."

He added that someone "loose and stupid" was likely to be responsible.

Among those urging restraint are the Pentagon's military chiefs, according to the Times, who believe that an airstrike could cause a dangerous escalation of violence in the region placing US forces at risk.

Another close media ally, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, has reportedly spoken to the president and urged him not to become entangled in another costly Middle Eastern conflict.

He is backed by libertarian Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a long term critic of US foreign policy and overseas military engagements.

In his remarks Thursday, Trump hinted at a red line in his dealings with Iran would be the loss of US life.

"We didn't have a man or woman in the drone. It would have made a big, big difference," Trump said.

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