Trump Mulled Bombing Iran over Nuclear Program in ‘Lame Duck’ Election Aftermath, Report Says
US President Donald Trump, who appears to have lost his reelection bid, considered attacking Iran because of the Iranian nuclear program, mulling the option last week despite the seeming status of a “lame duck” president with several weeks left to serve of his four-year term, according to a report.
While the outgoing US President has refused to concede to losing the 2020 election, and his team is contesting the results in several swing states, Trump’s Democratic Party rival Joe Biden is considered the new President-elect, due to step in on January 20, 2021.
Last Thursday, November 12, 2020, nearly 10 days after the US presidential election, Trump asked top US government officials for options to attack Iran’s main nuclear program site at Natanz, Reuters reported on Monday night (November 16, early November 17 in Europe), citing anonymous sources.
While apparently conserving undertaking strikes against Iran, Trump ultimately decided against it, the report says, confirming an earlier report in The New York Times.
The outgoing US President reportedly made the request for the “Iran bombing” options at a meeting in the Oval Office with his top national security aides.
Those present included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
The anonymous US official cited by Reuters confirmed the account of the meeting in The New York Times.
The advisers are said to have convinced Trump to abstain from attacking Iran because that course of action would risk a much greater conflict in the Middle East.
“He asked for options. They gave him the scenarios and he ultimately decided not to go forward,” the official was quoted as saying.
During its four years, the Trump Administration has been hawkish on US relations with Iran and in particular with respect to the Iranian nuclear program.
The enmity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran goes back to the Islamic Revolution in Iran back in 1979.
After 2000, it has been exacerbated by the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, which the US and other Western countries have been construing as geared towards the development of nuclear weapons, accusations staunchly denied by Tehran.
The Iranian nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a compromise arrangement signed in July 2015 by Iran and six foreign powers: US, China, Russia, UK, France, and Germany, with the involvement of the European Union.
It is supposed to ensure that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and not for the development of nuclear weapons.
The JCPOA agreement was championed by former US President Barack Obama and the Obama Administration as one of its landmark foreign policy achievements.
The Iranian nuclear deal has been mostly opposed by the Republican Party, and by Israel’s long-standing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Even though at first, back in 2017, it acknowledged that Iran had been keeping its end of the deal, the Trump Administration had been adamantly opposed to it in principle.
In May 2018, President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA despite attempts by America’s Western European allies to dissuade him from doing so.
After the withdrawal, the Trump Administration first re-imposed the US sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and subsequently strengthened them.
The American sanctions have deprived the Iranian government from crucial revenues from the exports of oil and have led to the isolation of Iranian banks, a major recession, and a slump in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial.
In Iran’s domestic politics, America’s withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA deal and its ensuing slapping of sanctions is believed to have empowered the hardliners and conservative forces.
In January 2020, Trump ordered a US drone strike which killed top-ranking Iranian General Qassem Soleimani from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at Baghdad’s airport.
For the most part, however, Trump has been abstaining from proactive large-scale US military involvement in the Middle East.
A military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz could lead to a full-fledged regional war.
Iran’s presently has a 2.4-tonne stock of low-enriched uranium, which is far beyond the limit of 202.8 kilograms set in the 2015 deal.
In the last quarter, it produced a total of 337.5 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which is a reduction compared with the 500 kilograms in the previous two quarters, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was cautious about the prospects for a thaw in US – Iranian relations under the future Biden Administration, saying Tehran had been bracing for a second Trump term.