Aides Convince Lame-duck Trump Not Launch Attack on Iran

November 17th, 2020 - by The Telegraph & The Week & Business Insider

Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

Donald Trump ‘Considered Attacking Iran Nuclear Site after US Election Defeat’

The Telegraph

(November 16, 2020) — Donald Trump, with two months left in office, asked for options on attacking Iran’s main nuclear site last week but ultimately decided against taking the dramatic step, a US official said on Monday.

The US president made the request during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday with his top national security aides, including 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, the official said.

Mr. Trump, who has refused to concede and is challenging the results of the presidential election, is due to hand over power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

The official confirmed the account of the meeting in The New York Times, which reported that the advisers persuaded Mr. Trump not to go ahead with a strike because of the risk of a broader conflict.

“He asked for options. They gave him the scenarios and he ultimately decided not to go forward,” the official said.

The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Trump has spent all four years of his presidency engaging in an aggressive policy against Iran, withdrawing in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and imposing economic sanctions against a wide variety of Iranian targets.

His request for options came a day after a UN atomic watchdog report showed that Iran had finished moving a first cascade of advanced centrifuges from an above-ground plant at its main uranium enrichment site to an underground one, in a fresh breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Iran’s 2.4-tonne stock of low-enriched uranium is now far above the deal’s 202.8kg limit. It produced 337.5kg in the quarter, less than the more than 500kg recorded in the previous two quarters by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In January, Mr. Trump ordered a US drone strike that killed Iranian military General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. But he has shied away from broader military conflicts and sought to withdraw American troops from global hotspots in keeping with a promise to stop what he calls “endless wars”.

A strike on Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz could flare into a regional conflict and pose a serious foreign policy challenge for Mr. Biden.

Mr. 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 to comment.

Trump Reportedly Asked Advisers for Options on How to Strike Iran’s Main Nuclear Site

Catherine Garcia / The Week

 (November 16, 2020) — After international inspectors shared that Iran has increased its stockpile of nuclear material, President Trump asked his top national security aides if he had options for a military strike against the country’s main nuclear site, four former and current U.S. officials told The New York Times on Monday. 

Trump made the query during a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday. On Wednesday, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency said at Iran’s Natanz facility, the uranium stockpile is now 12 times larger than what was permitted under the nuclear deal forged during the Obama administration. They also said Iran did not give inspectors access to another area where there was evidence of earlier nuclear activity.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all discouraged Trump from taking any action, warning it could lead to a dangerous situation, the Times reports.

The advisers believe they got through to Trump and a missile attack inside Iran won’t happen, the officials said, but he might still be trying to find a way to hit Iranian allies, including militias in Iraq.

Natanz is Iran’s main nuclear facility – REUTERS

Trump Asked Advisors for Options to Attack Iran’s Main Nuclear Site Says after Sacking his Defense Secretary

John Haltiwanger and Charles Davis / Business Insider

(November 16, 2020) — President Donald Trump asked senior advisors to provide him with options for a military strike on Iran last Thursday, according to The New York Times.

An array of top advisors persuaded Trump against pursuing such a strike with such a short time left in his presidency, warning the move could spark a broader conflict.

President Donald Trump last week consulted top advisors on potential options for a military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Senior advisors ultimately discouraged Trump from pursuing the strike, arguing that such a move could spiral into a larger conflict with a short time remaining in the president’s tenure, four current and former officials told The Times. Though Trump has refused to accept the results and concede, President-elect Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 election.

Among those who persuaded Trump against moving forward with the strike were Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley.

“Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, told Insider. “A military strike on Iran would deeply destabilize an already unstable Middle East, with ripple effects across the region, especially in Iraq and Lebanon.”

Furthermore, “Iran is far away from having enough enriched uranium to build a bomb,” Hashemi said. “There is no imminent threat that would warrant a military strike.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The reported Oval Office meeting took place just days after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and a day after international inspectors reported a major increase in Iran’s uranium stockpile.

Iran’s low-grade uranium stockpile is now more than 12 times the limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump controversially withdrew the US from in May 2018.

Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Obama-era nuclear accord rapidly raised tensions between Washington and Tehran, catalyzing a series of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf. The contentious dynamic was exacerbated in early 2020 after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, while he was in Iraq.

The Soleimani strike pushed the US and Iran to the ,brink of war. Iran retaliated with a missile attack on US forces in Iraq that left dozens with serious injuries. The US and Iran avoided a broader conflict in the aftermath of the Soleimani strike, but tensions remained high. The strike also led Iran to effectively abandon the 2015 nuclear deal altogether.

“The only reason Iran didn’t want to escalate beyond symbolic attacks at the time was precisely because it feared the US would escalate even further by striking inside the country,” Hassan Hassan, program director of non-state actors and geopolitics at the Center for Global Policy, told Insider. “If the US strikes inside Iran, and against nuclear facilities, then the gloves are off.”

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