Bolton wanted attack on Iran
The US considered military strikes on Iran after a mortar attack close to its embassy in Baghdad in September, American officials said yesterday.
John Bolton, the national security adviser, called a series of meetings after the attack – which one of Tehran’s proxy militias in Iraq claimed responsibility for – and is believed to have asked the Pentagon to draw up options for bombing Iran. A second attack by an unknown group two days later targeted the US consulate in Basra. There were no injuries nor damage in either incident.
Unnamed US officials told The Wall Street Journal that Bolton’s hawkish response to the September attack ‘‘rattled’’ the Pentagon and state department. Before he took office in April Bolton was known for his fiery anti-Iran rhetoric, including calling for regime change.
His request was not followed through, but it did reveal how willing some members of President Donald Trump’s circle are to engage Iran in direct military conflict, which could easily spiral into a full-blown war and inflame a series of proxy conflicts across the Middle East.
Iran is embroiled in conflicts in Syria and Iran, and backs militias in Lebanon and Iraq. Its presence in Syria, where members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are fighting alongside Assad’s forces, has heightened tensions with Israel, which shares a disputed border with the war-torn country.
Israel fears that its old enemy Hezbollah, one of Iran’s proxy militias, may soon use its strongholds close to the frontier to launch missile attacks on its territory.
Bolton was the driving force behind the American withdrawal last year from the Iran nuclear deal, a cornerstone of Trump’s foreign policy. His aggressive rhetoric is at odds with that of Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, who has said that Trump’s strategy in Iran does not include regime change.
Pompeo, visiting Qatar yesterday during his eight-day trip to the Middle East, told a conservative newspaper that Iran’s planned launch of satellites into space was a cover for testing advanced missile technology capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
‘‘You’ll see in a handful of days the Iranians intend to launch a space launch vehicle,’’ he told the Washington Free Beacon.
‘‘The claim is that it is to put some satellites in the air. The truth is this will be another step in their understanding of how it is you can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.’’
European powers and the UN are trying to keep the nuclear deal alive but it could be jeopardised by an announcement from the head of Iran’s nuclear programme of ‘‘preliminary activities for designing’’ a modern process for 20 per cent uranium enrichment for its research reactor in Tehran. Enrichment at that level would breach the terms of the 2015 deal. However, Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments to state television appeared to be telling the world that Iran would restart its programme slowly, in accordance with the agreement.