NEW YORK, Nov 17 : US President Donald Trump, in his final weeks in office, asked for options last week on attacking Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz, but but was talked out of it by senior administration officials.
Trump was reportedly told by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday that such action could lead to a wider escalation of conflict.
“A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike”.
The White House declined comment on the report, according to media reports.
Trump, who has refused to concede and is challenging the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, is to hand over power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
The outgoing president has spent all four of his years at the White House engaging in an aggressive policy against Iran, withdrawing in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and imposing tough economic sanctions against a wide variety of Iranian targets.
Trump’s request for options came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN watchdog body, reported a large increase in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material.
The report last Wednesday said that Iran’s uranium stockpile at Natanz was now 12 times larger than allowed under the nuclear deal that Trump shelved in 2018.
Trump asked his national security advisors what options he had to respond.
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York, said Iran’s nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes and civilian use and Trump’s policies have not changed that. “However, Iran has proven to be capable of using its legitimate military might to prevent or respond to any melancholy adventure from any aggressor,” he added.
In January, Trump ordered a US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. But he has shied away from broader military conflicts and sought to withdraw US troops from global hotspots in keeping with a promise to stop what he calls “endless wars.”
President-elect Biden vowed during the election campaign that he would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal if they agreed to again be limited by it.
But any military action against Iran by Trump in the final days of his presidency could increase the difficulty for the president-elect to revive the agreement with Tehran.
Biden’s transition team, which has not had access to national security intelligence due to the Trump administration’s refusal to begin the transition, declined comment.