According to The New York Times, President Trump asked his advisors if he had options to attack Iran’s main nuclear site but was talked out of pulling the trigger. Four anonymous officials told the Times that Trump discussed the options at a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday.
Trump’s senior advisors dissuaded the president from going through with a military strike on Iran. The advisors included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, the acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. The group warned Trump that a military strike could escalate into a broader conflict.
According to the Times, the officials left last week’s meeting assuming a military option was off the table. But President Trump could be looking into other ways to attack Iran or its allies in Iraq. In July, Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was sabotaged by an explosion that caused a fire, an attack believed to have been carried out by Israel. Natanz is Iran’s main enrichment facility and would likely be the target for a US attack, should President Trump go through with one.
The president discussed the options in response to a report from the international watchdog that monitors Iran’s nuclear program under the 2015 nuclear deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA released a report last week that said Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile is now at 2,442.2 kg, which is 12 times the amount allowed under the deal of 202.8 kg.
But Iran has been purposely not complying with the stockpile limits to gain leverage for future talks and sanctions relief. US officials like to say Iran is violating the deal, but the Trump administration violated the agreement when it reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018.
The IAEA report also said Iran began underground construction at Natanz, another thing Tehran has been open about. The move underground is clearly a response to the sabotage at the facility.
When it comes to attacking Iran’s nuclear program, cyber-attacks are an option for the US. In 2010, the US and Israel carried out a cyber-attack on Iran’s Natanz facility using a virus known as Stuxnet.
The Trump administration is ramping up its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and reportedly planning to sanction the country every week until Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th. The idea is to make it as hard as possible for Biden to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.