Trump called for options to attack Iran to halt its growing nuclear program

WASHINGTON – President Trump asked senior advisers at an Oval Office meeting on Thursday if they had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting comes a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s reserves of nuclear material, four current and former US officials said on Monday.

Several senior advisers blocked the president from proceeding with the military strike. Advisor – including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, acting secretary of defense; And Mark A., president of the General of Staff. Miley warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into widespread conflict in the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Any strike – whether by missile or cyber – will almost certainly focus on Natazan, where the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Wednesday that Iran’s uranium reserves were now 12 times larger than allowed under the nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump said in 2018. dropped in. The agency also noted that Iran did not allow it to reach any other suspicious sites where there was evidence of past nuclear activity.

Officials said Mr. Trump asked his top national security aides what options were available and how to respond.

After Mr. Pompeo and General Mile described the potential dangers of the military escalation, officials had quit assuming a missile attack inside Iran, according to administration officials with the knowledge of the meeting.

Officials said Mr. Trump is still looking at ways to attack Iranian property and allies, including militias in Iraq. The day before the meeting with the president, a small group of national security allies met late Wednesday to discuss Iran.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The episode underscored how Mr. Trump, in his final weeks in office, still faces an array of global threats. Iran’s strike may not play well on its grounds, which opposes a deep US conflict in the Middle East, but it may dissolve poison in relations with Tehran, so that President-Elect Joseph R. Be very difficult for Biden Jr. To revive the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, as it has promised to do.

Since Mr. Trump last week Secretary of Defense Mark T. C. L. And other top Pentagon allies were sacked, with the Department of Defense and other national security officials privately expressing concern that the president could launch the operation, whether it was against Iran or other opponents, or eventually undercover. Of his term.

The events of the last few days are not the first time that the Iran policy has come out in the last days of an outgoing administration. During the last days of the Bush administration in 2008, Israeli officials worried that the incoming Obama administration would like to prevent it from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, bunker-bombing bombs, bombers and Israeli-led intelligence aid from the US Will demand to picket

Vice President Dick Cheney later wrote in his memoirs that he supported the idea. President George W. Bush did not, but the result was a close collaboration with Israel on a cyber attack against the Natanz facility, which evacuated Iran’s nearly 1,000 nuclear centers.

Ever since, the Pentagon has revised its strike plans several times. It now has the traditional military as well as cyber adoption and some that mix the two. Some include direct action by Israel.

The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran now had reserves of more than 2,442 kilograms or less than 5,385 pounds of uranium. According to the analysis of the report by the Institute of Science and International Security, about two is sufficient to produce nuclear weapons. But uranium would require several months of additional processing to enrich bomb-grade material, meaning Iran would not be close to the bomb until the earliest spring – well after Mr. Trump left office.

While the amount is concerned, it is well below the amount of fuel before Iran’s President Obama reached a nuclear deal with Tehran in July 2015. At the end of that year, under the terms of the agreement, Iran shipped 97% of its fuel reserves to Russia – about 25,000 pounds – it would need to make at least one single weapon.

Iranians still hold Iranians at those borders after canceling US participation in the Iran Agreement in 2018 and re-enforcing sanctions. The Iranians began to slowly edge over those borders last year, declaring that if Mr. Trump felt free to violate his terms, they would not continue to abide by them.

But the Iranians have hardly rushed to produce new material: their progress has been slow and steady, and they have refused to demand a weapon – though evidence from the country stolen years ago by Israel Clarified that there was a plan before 2003.

Mr. Trump has argued since the 2016 campaign that Iran was hiding some of its actions and betraying its commitments; Reports from inspectors last week gave him the first partial evidence to support that view. The report criticized Iran for not answering a series of questions about a warehouse in Tehran where inspectors found uranium particles, leading to suspicion that it was some kind of nuclear-processing facility. The report said Iran’s responses were “not technically reliable.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has previously complained that inspectors have been barred from thoroughly reviewing some suspicious sites.

It is not just the US military that is looking at alternatives. Mr. Pompeo, officials said, is closely watching events on the ground in Iraq to signal any invasion into Iran or its proxy militia against American diplomats or troops stationed there.

Mr. Pompeo had already drawn up plans to close the US embassy in Baghdad over concerns of potential threats, although in recent days he appeared ready to leave that decision to the next administration. Mortar and rocket attacks against the embassy have ended in the past several weeks, and the closure of the largest US diplomatic mission in the world may take months to complete.

But officials said that could change if an American was killed before Inauguration Day.

Authorities are particularly nervous about the January 3 anniversary of the US strike. It killed Major General Qasim Suleimani, commander of the Iranian elite, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iraqi leader of Iranian-backed militias – the deaths Iranian leaders routinely insist they have not yet retaliated.

Mr. Pompeo, who has been the sternest proponent among Iran’s fond advisors while the administration still can, has recently clarified that the American’s death was a red line that could provoke a military backlash.

This will also increase tensions between Washington and Baghdad. Diplomats said Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Qadimi would almost certainly object to the assassination of Iraqis – even Iranian-backed militias – on Iraqi soil by US forces who are already facing demands to leave .

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