Senator Rand Paul has warned that White House national security adviser John Bolton is “a malignant influence,” and that he is leading the US toward a war with Iran from which there is no turning back.

Speaking Thursday, Paul expressed alarm at the escalation of the rhetoric between the US and Iran, and the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and an Air Force bomber task force to the Persian gulf.

“I fear that he’s a malignancy, a malignant influence on the administration.” Paul said of John Bolton, who reportedly had a significant role in the deployment.

“I think the most important thing is to put the administration on notice that they do not have congressional permission to go to war with Iran.” Paul urged.

“We need to make sure we’re not involved in anything that is provocative enough to encourage a skirmish that leads to a bigger war,” the Senator added, warning that “provocation can occur on both sides and we need to be wary.”

Paul also spoke in the Senate regarding war authorisation Wednesday

Paul pointed to two recent New York Times reports that both suggested the White House has escalated warnings of potential attacks by Iranian forces.

One report suggested the US has obtained photographic evidence of missiles being transported to boats in the Persian Gulf by Iran, while another claimed that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanhan delivered a Pentagon plan to the administration to deploy 120,000 troops to US bases in the Middle East at the behest of Bolton.

“My concern is that there are people that will overreact to this intelligence and somehow get us involved in a military conflict from which there’s no turning back,” Paul cautioned.

“The question is that’s being done in reaction to our increased presence there and our naming all of the Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, is this a reaction to our policy or is it simply an aggressive policy saying we’re going to start war,” Paul added, noting that “Iran knows you don’t start a war with the United States.”

Speaking on Thursday, Trump responded to the prospect of having to engage in conflict with Iran saying “I hope not.”

While reports have speculated that Trump is at odds with Bolton and Secretary of State mike Pompeo over the Iran matter, the President said that there is no ‘in-fighting’.

Earlier in the week, Trump responded to the Times story regarding the deployment of troops, calling it ‘fake news’.

“I have not planned for that.” Trump added, noting that “If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

The President told reporters “we’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

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