Following a report that Iran had substantially bulked up its reserves of nuclear material, President Donald Trump considered attack options against the Middle East country last week, according to The New York Times.
But other officials counseled the president on Thursday against aggressive steps, the report found, with at least one cautioning that “a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks” of Trump’s term.
Though Trump has reportedly decided to refrain from taking action at this point, The Times made clear he may be keeping his options open.
“Mr. Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq, officials said,” according to the report. “A smaller group of national security aides had met late Wednesday to discuss Iran, the day before the meeting with the president.”
The news comes at a particularly insecure time for the president, as he has lost his re-election bid against Joe Biden but refuses to concede. Trump also recently ousted and replaced top leadership at the Pentagon for reasons that have yet to be fully explained.
And the increasing tensions with Iran reflect a deeply regrettable fact: Trump pointlessly tore up the Iran nuclear deal that had been crafted under President Barack Obama and was never able to replace it. That has given the regime much more latitude to ramp up its nuclear program. Biden has expressed a desire to return the United States to the nuclear deal, but it’s hard to be confident that will even still be an option by the time he is inaugurated.
Trump’s previous saber-rattling with Iran around the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 resulted in a series of escalating tit-for-tat strikes, including an assault on American soldiers that reportedly caused dozens of injuries. And in the fog of conflict, Iran shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a passenger jet, killing 176 people.