David Jackson USA TODAY
President Donald Trump asked advisers about options for a military strike against Iran last week, but held off ordering an operation that would inflame Middle East tensions during his last two months in office, according to reports.
Trump explored the idea of a military strike against Iran over an inspection report showing Tehran had stepped up the means to make nuclear weapons, according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
At a meeting Thursday, Trump and members of his national security team discussed potential military and cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear targets, but aides warned him that “a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency,” the Times reported. Citing anonymous sources, the Times said officials left the meeting with Trump “believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table.”
The meeting included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark A. Milley.
Under a 2015 agreement signed by the Obama administration, the United States and United Nations allies agreed to reduce economic sanctions on Iran as it gave up the means to produce nuclear weapons. Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, claiming, without evidence, that Iran was cheating.Since then, Trump and his administration have increased economic sanctions on Iran and claimed it will eventually return to the bargaining table.
Some analysts expressed concern that Trump is looking to end his presidency with a dramatic military strike against Iran that would limit the ability of President-elect Joe Biden to revive diplomacy with Tehran after he takes office Jan. 20.
“There was this diplomatic agreement that had rolled back Iran’s nuclear program without a war,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, who negotiated the 2015 agreement Iran and other countries.
“Too bad Trump trashed it because of his Obama complex,” he added.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran’s uranium stockpile at a key facility is now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear agreement.