- President Donald Trump asked senior advisers to offer him options for a military strike against Iran last Thursday, according to the New York Times.
- A range of high-level advisers have persuaded Trump not to continue such a strike with so little time in his presidency, warning that the move could spark a wider conflict.
- Trump pushed the United States and Iran to the brink of war in early 2020.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump consulted with senior advisers last week on potential options for a military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Senior advisers ultimately discouraged Trump from continuing the strike, arguing that such a move could escalate into a larger conflict with little time left in the president’s term, four current and former officials told The Times. Although Trump refused to accept the results and concede, President-elect Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 election.
Among those who persuaded Trump not to go ahead with the strike were Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and President of Joint Staff, General Mark A. Milley.
“Fortunately, fresher heads prevailed,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, told Insider. “A military strike against Iran would deeply destabilize an already unstable Middle East, with ripple effects throughout the region, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon. ”
In addition, “Iran is far from having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb,” Hashemi said. “There is no imminent threat that would justify a military strike. ”
The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The Oval Office meeting came just days after Trump’s sacking of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in Iran’s uranium stocks.
Iran’s stockpile of low-grade uranium is now more than 12 times the limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump controversially withdrew by the United States in May 2018.
Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Obama-era nuclear deal quickly escalated tensions between Washington and Tehran, catalyzing a series of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf. The contentious dynamic was heightened in early 2020 after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed senior Iranian General Qassem Soleimani while in Iraq.
Soleimani’s strike pushed the United States and Iran to the brink of war. Iran retaliated with a missile attack on US forces in Iraq that left dozens seriously injured. The United States and Iran have avoided a wider conflict in the wake of the Soleimani strike, but tensions have remained high. The strike also led Iran to completely abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The only reason Iran did not want to escalate beyond the symbolic attacks at the time was precisely because it feared the United States would escalate even further by striking inside the country.” Hassan Hassan, program director for non-state actors and geopolitics at the Center for Global Policy, told Insider. “If the United States strikes inside Iran and against nuclear facilities, then the gloves are off. ”
This story breaks. Check back for updates.