Two months before he is due to leave office, President Donald Trump asked top aides about the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, The New York Times reported Monday. Many in South Asia view Trump’s ‘wish’ as a result of his recent electoral defeat. Historically, American Presidents are accused of initiating wars to upgrade their popularity graph. Trump, who has lost the presidential battle, wants to make an unusual move but without clearly defined objectives.
During a meeting at the Oval Office last Thursday, the outgoing Republican leader asked several top aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, “whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks,” the newspaper said.
The senior officials “dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike,” warning him that such an attack could escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of his presidency, the Times wrote.
Trump reportedly asked the question after a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that 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 a bid to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
NYT: Trump asked senior advisers on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. He was apparently dissuaded by Pence, Pompeo, new Pentagon chief Christopher Miller and Mark Milley. https://t.co/jEIZ4vJt44
— Zach Basu (@zacharybasu) November 17, 2020
Iran has long been Trump’s bete noire, and he first reintroduced sanctions and then tightened them even further after scrapping the nuclear accord.
European partners in the accord have struggled to keep the deal afloat despite Trump’s efforts to torpedo it, and are hoping for a renewed diplomatic approach after the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden on November 3, although Trump refuses to concede his loss.
The Trump administration has pledged to step up the punitive measures, which some critics see as an attempt to build up a “wall of sanctions” that Biden would have difficulty tearing down once he takes office.
Iran’s growing ties with China: A threat to American interests?
Some analysts are of the view that Iran’s growing ties with the emerging power China are being seen by the US and its think tanks as a threat to its Middle Eastern policy. The US under Trump supported a relatively strong idea of marginalizing Iran and pushing it into complete international isolation.
According to a report published in The New York Times, China is expected to invest a total of $400bn in banking, transport, and development sectors in Iran. The agreement in this regard, claimed the newspaper, has been finalized. In exchange, Beijing expects to receive a regular and heavily discounted, supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. The deal is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to extend his country’s economic and strategic influence across Eurasia, the report added.
Days after the NYT made the report public, India’s most prestigious newspaper, The Hindu, claimed that ”Iran decided to exclude India from an extensive rail project that will connect the Iranian port city of Chabahar to Zahedan, a city near its border with Afghanistan”.
However, the Iranian government denied The Hindu’s report and claimed that it did not exclude New Delhi from the project, as it had “not inked any deal with India regarding the Zahedan-Chabahar railway” in the first place.
Political analysts are of the view that the outgoing President may not be able to destroy Iranian nuclear sights but his desire is a clear manifestation of the growing American frustration. Iran is yet to respond to the report.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk