Rhodes, a leading figure within the Obama administration who pushed for the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, suggested the U.S. official assessment of the tanker attacks shouldn’t be taken for granted, saying only an international investigation can get to the bottom of the incident.
“This definitely feels like the kind of incident where you'd want an international investigation to establish what happened. Huge risk of escalation,” Rhodes said in a tweet.
This prompted a stark rebuttal from Crenshaw, the freshman congressman and former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, who blasted Rhodes for downplaying the danger posed by the Iranian regime and doubting the intelligence community.
“So, do or don’t believe the Intel community? And you’re not really a trusted source to weigh in on Iran,” Crenshaw wrote in a tweet. “You sold the public the falsehood of a moderating Iranian regime - using your media ‘echo chamber’ (your words)- & ignoring the true danger Iran presents in the region.”
“I’ve been watching for years as Iran moves weapons to proxies around the region, looking for opportunities to destabilize & wreak havoc, and then claim innocence. This is not new. And the Administration is right to strengthen our regional presence as a deterrence,” Crenshaw added.
Crenshaw refers to Rhodes’ now-infamous comments that the administration’s foreign policy team built an “echo chamber” of experts to help sell the controversial Iran nuclear deal.
“We created an echo chamber,” Rhodes told the New York Times Magazine in 2016 when asked about arms-control experts that appeared at think tanks and were then used as sources for hundreds of reporters – whom the article described as “clueless.”
Of those experts, Rhodes said: “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for the "blatant assault" on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier Thursday.
In a news conference, Pompeo said: “This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
He charged that Iran was working to disrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and this is a deliberate part of a campaign to escalate tension, adding that the U.S. would defend its forces and interests in the region, although he did not elaborate.
U.S. officials released a video Friday supposedly showing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the vessels.
The black-and-white footage, as well as still photos released by the U.S. military’s Central Command on Friday, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, before a Revolutionary Guard patrol boat pulled alongside the ship and removed the mine, Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said.