Donald Trump asked top aides last week about the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming weeks, according to a New York Times report.
During a meeting at the Oval Office on Thursday, the outgoing US president asked several top aides, including the vice-president, Mike Pence, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen Mark Milley, “whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks”, the newspaper says.
The senior officials “dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike”, warning him that an attack could escalate into a broader conflict in the final weeks of his presidency, the Times writes.
Trump reportedly asked the question after a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran was continuing to stockpile uranium.
According to the Times, the most likely target of such a strike would have been Natanz, where the IAEA reported that Tehran’s “uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr Trump abandoned in 2018”, three years after it was signed in an attempt to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
European partners in the accord, which have struggled to keep the deal afloat despite Trump’s efforts to torpedo it, hope for a renewed diplomatic approach after Joe Biden’s election victory on 3 November, although Trump refuses to concede defeat.
The Trump administration has pledged to increase the punitive measures, which some critics see as an attempt to build a “wall of sanctions” that Biden would have difficulty dismantling when he takes office next year.