New reporting that President Donald Trump considered using military force last week in response to the expansion of Iran's nuclear program provoked condemnation on Monday from peace advocates, who denounced U.S. militarism and the Trump administration's escalation of tensions between the two countries, and a warning from Iranian officials that any assault on its territory would be met with a "crushing response."
The New York Times reported Monday night that Trump asked top advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday about the possibility of a military strike against the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Iran's main nuclear facility.
Four current and former U.S. officials told the Times that "the meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase" in the country's uranium stockpile, which, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, is "now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump abandoned in 2018."
Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed out that "Trump came into office with a strong, effective nuclear agreement that the U.S. painstakingly negotiated alongside our allies."
"Trump could've chosen to enforce it while pressing forward on other issues," Duss said, "but D.C.'s anti-Iran fanatics had other ideas, and here we are."
Trump came into office with a strong, effective nuclear agreement that the US painstakingly negotiated alongside our allies. Trump could’ve chosen to enforce it while pressing forward on other issues. But DC’s anti-Iran fanatics had other ideas, and here we are. https://t.co/B95Hq9gzhk— Matt Duss (@mattduss) November 16, 2020
Senior advisers to the president—including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller; and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—had to dissuade Trump from moving ahead with an attack, which they told him "could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of [his] presidency," the Times explained.
The newspaper reported that while Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to produce about two nuclear weapons, "it would require several months of additional processing to enrich the uranium to bomb-grade material, meaning that Iran would not be close to a bomb until late spring at the earliest—well after Mr. Trump would have left office."
Nevertheless, ahead of Pompeo's upcoming visit to Israel, scheduled for Wednesday, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told the country's Army Radio: "If I were the Iranians, I would not feel at ease."
"It is very important," Steinitz added, "that the Iranians know that if, indeed, they suddenly dash toward high levels of enrichment, in the direction of nuclear weaponry, they are liable to encounter the military might of the United States—and also, perhaps, of other countries."
Although he was advised against attacking Iran's main nuclear site, Trump "might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq," according to the Times.
In a statement responding to the Times report, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) president Jamal Abdi said that "Trump's request for military options to strike Iran's nuclear program in his waning days in office encapsulates the bankruptcy of the pressure-only approach toward Iran favored by so many in Washington."
Trump, Abdi said, "took office in a more favorable position on Iran than any president since Jimmy Carter."
Iran's nuclear program was contained and there were prospects to resolve further challenges since the two countries were finally talking. Trump listens to opponents of diplomacy and burned it all down, sparking an entirely-avoidable crisis that he now wants to try to bomb his way out of.
Trump clearly seeks to demolish any chances for U.S.-Iran de-escalation under a Biden administration. His desire to bomb Iran comes as his administration plans to pile on more sanctions all the way up to January 20 to tie Biden's hands diplomatically and prevent the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal.
"This recently-defeated president," Abdi added, "has no authorization for a new war."
Anti-war activist Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, tweeted—in all-caps, to Republicans and Democrats alike—that "the American people are sick and tired of your damn wars!!!"
Just as antiwar folks are ready to praise Trump for bringing some troops home, we hear that he wants to bomb Iran!!! A message to BOTH PARTIES: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF YOUR DAMN WARS!!!— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) November 17, 2020
Abdi noted that "bipartisan majorities in Congress directed the president to withdraw from hostilities with Iran earlier this year and should reiterate this point."
The NIAC president expressed relief that "the days of Trump's reckless leadership are drawing to a close," and stressed that "it is more important than ever that President-elect Biden take the U.S. off the path of war and return to compliance with the nuclear deal."