President Donald Trump’s National Security Council reportedly requested last year that the Pentagon provide military options to strike Iran, U.S. officials said.
The move, which followed two incidents in Iraq when three shells were fired near the U.S. Embassy by Iran-allied insurgents, raised concerns among officials at the Pentagon and State Department, although contingency planning for possible conflict is routine.
The national security team, led by John Bolton held a number of meeting to look into a potential U.S. response, including a strike on Iran.
“It definitely rattled people,” a former senior U.S. administration official said of the request. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that even though the Pentagon complied with the request, it remains unclear whether the proposals were provided to the White House, and whether the President knew of the request. An attack on Iran could prompt a conflict between the two countries that could drag on for a long time.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the NSC, said they were reviewing “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.”
The national security adviser’s request only demonstrates the hard-line stance toward Iran many in President Trump’s camp have as well as the administration’s more confrontational approach toward Tehran.
What concerned officials the most is that the council asked for forceful response options in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries. According to people familiar with the matter, the NSC also asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria.
On the other hand, then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis pushed for a more moderate response and argued against strikes on Iranian forces.