The United States and allies are continuing to argue about whether Iran is stepping up threats against American forces in the Middle East – or responding to threats from the Trump administration.

But U.S. officials told The New York Times they escalated their warnings to Iran because of intelligence showing photographs of missiles being loaded onto small boats in the Persian Gulf.

“Overhead imagery showed fully assembled missiles, stoking fears that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps would fire them at United States naval ships,” The Times reported.

The Times also noted that Europeans and some congressional lawmakers are saying that “Iran’s moves might mostly be defensive against what Tehran believes are provocative acts by Washington.”

Last week, CNN also reported that Iran was loading ballistic missiles on boats.

The U.S. has recently stepped up warnings against Iran, telling the nation not to attack U.S. forces and sending B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats. On Wednesday, the State Department ordered non-emergency U.S. employees out of Iraq because of the tensions.

The kerfuffle over the photos follows an extraordinary public dispute between U.S. and British officials over whether Iran is, in fact, more of a threat now than it has been in the past.

British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, the No. 2 officer in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said on Tuesday that the threat from Iran is no greater than it was months ago.

Source » usatoday