A meeting between US National Security Adviser John Bolton and a number of intelligence and military officials was reportedly held on 29 April at CIA headquarters. The meeting was described as "rare" and "unusual", as national security meetings are usually held in the White House Situation Room, and senior White House officials and Cabinet members don't typically attend meetings at the CIA, The Hill reports.
The initiator of the meeting was Bolton, who gathered top US officials, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, for a discussion on Iran, The Hill reports.
While the exact topic of the discussion was not specified, it was purportedly not devoted to information that led to the decision to deploy additional forces to the CENTCOM area of responsibility, namely the carrier strike group and the bomber task force.
This meeting was apparently not the first of its kind, according to an NBC News report, which cited former CIA operations officers and military officials: "such meetings have been held at CIA headquarters to brief top officials on highly sensitive covert actions, either the results of existing operations or options for new ones."
There could be another reason for such a meeting — a disagreement about what intelligence shows about a particular subject — John McLaughlin, former acting CIA director, said, according to NBC.
The meeting took place amid rising tensions between the US and Iran and prior to the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln and the bomber task force to the Middle East. Bolton announced that move Sunday, and it was then confirmed by Shanahan, who claimed that the decision was made "in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces."
Washington is currently waging a pressure campaign against Iran, the recent developments of which include designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization and a toughening of sanctions against Iranian iron, steel, aluminium and copper.
In response, Tehran announced Wednesday that it plans to suspend some of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani saying that the collapse of the deal would be dangerous for the country and the whole world. Rouhani sent a letter to the signatory states, informing them they have 60 days to return to the negotiating table to ensure Iran's interests are still protected by the agreement.