The Trump administration has reportedly told members of Congress that it anticipates for Iran to retaliate against the U.S. “within weeks” in response to the strike that the President authorized and killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani.
According to a CNN report Saturday, an official with direct knowledge of the situation said that intense discussions within U.S. military and intelligence agencies are underway to weigh whether Iran is now gearing up for retaliatory strikes in the next few days or waiting for some time.
The official told CNN that “there are conflicting views” on how fast Iran will retaliate, but that U.S. military defenses are ready to act.
On Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley said “damn right there is risk” when asked whether there is an active risk to U.S. safety after the Soleimani strike, according to CNN.
A source with knowledge of what was discussed during classified briefings Friday among officials from the National Security Council, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies shared a similar sentiment, saying that it is not a question of whether Iran will retaliate, but how it will happen.
CNN reported that national security officials bluntly discussed a range of retaliatory possibilities inside the US and abroad. One administration official familiar with the briefing told CNN that the goal of the briefings was to ensure that lawmakers were “cleared-eyed” about how Iranian retaliation could potentially happen.
The official also told CNN that the Trump administration wanted to communicate that it couldn’t rule out retaliation from Iran within the next few weeks — or even months — knowing Iran’s history in responding to events it views as acts of aggression against the regime.
A source familiar with the briefing told CNN that administration officials confirmed the existence of Iranian proxy actors in the Western Hemisphere, both inside the U.S. and below the southern border, but did not specify the number or locations. Administration officials also reportedly warned of attacks potentially led by Iranian-trained Lebanese Hezbollah, which has sleeper cells in U.S. and European cities.
Earlier Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the U.S. committed a “grave mistake” in killing Soleimani and that Americans “will face the consequences of this criminal act not only today, but also in the coming years.” On Saturday afternoon, CNN also reported that the White House is set to formally notify Congress on Saturday of the Trump-authorized strike that killed Soleimani.