White House Sought Options to Strike Iran
WASHINGTON (Dispatches) - On a warm night in early September, militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy.
The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot, harming no one. But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where President Trump’s national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response.
As part of the talks, Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, generated concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials say.
“It definitely rattled people,” said one former senior U.S. administration official. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran, the officials said. But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, here visiting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this month, joined forces with national security adviser John Bolton to develop a more aggressive policy aimed at weakening the government in Tehran.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the body “coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats.”
“We continue to review the status of our personnel following attempted attacks on our embassy in Baghdad and our Basra consulate, and we will consider a full range of options to preserve their safety and our interests,” he said.
Mr. Bolton’s request reflects the administration’s more confrontational approach toward Tehran, one that he has pushed since taking up the post last April.
As national security adviser, Mr. Bolton is charged with providing a range of diplomatic, military and economic advice to the president.
Former U.S. officials said it was unnerving that the National Security Council asked for far-reaching military options to strike Iran in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries.