Back off!

President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks, The New York Times reported on Monday, saying the meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material.

Citing four current and former U.S. officials, The New York Times claimed a range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, saying the advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Trump’s presidency.

“First of all, these advisers warned Trump that if he attacks Iran, he will put all U.S. interests in danger throughout the region. Second, they told him that all U.S. military bases in the region will be within the range of Iran’s missiles. Third, they told him that America’s friends in the region – Persian Gulf’s southern littoral Arab countries – will incur serious damages. Furthermore, they warned about the scope of the war and the spillover effect of it. They warned about a possible crisis in the Strait of Hormuz and an oil crisis,” Seyed Hadi Seyed Afghahi, an expert on West Asia, told the Tehran Times.

Pompeo and General Milley have warned about military action against Iran, according to The Times, adding that After Pompeo and General Milley described the potential risks of military escalation, officials left the meeting believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table.

However, the publication raised the possibility that Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including groups in Iraq.

In what appeared to be a steady process of putting the spotlight on Iran, the American publication also claimed that a smaller group of national security aides had met late Wednesday to discuss Iran, the day before the meeting with the president.

Reuters also confirmed the account of the meeting in The New York Times, citing a U.S. official on Monday. The news agency reported that Trump, with two months left in office, last week asked for options on attacking Iran’s main nuclear site, but ultimately decided against taking the dramatic step.

Iran rejected the U.S. media saber-rattling, saying it has military options at its disposal to prevent or respond to any aggression by the U.S.

Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York, said Iran’s nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes and civilian use and Trump’s policies have not changed that.

“However, Iran has proven to be capable of using its legitimate military might to prevent or respond to any melancholy adventure from any aggressor,” he told Reuters.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei also threatened the U.S. with a “crushing” response if it attacked Iran. “Any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response,” Rabiei said in remarks on Tuesday.

But the spokesman said he personally doesn’t think a U.S. attack on Iran is probable.

Afghahi said inside the U.S. government, including Congress and the White House, there are sage people who would prevent Trump from launching an attack on Iran that will likely set the whole region on fire. These people, said Afghahi, are more aware of the implications of military escalation with Iran than Trump, who may have decided to take revenge from Iran due to its refusal to meet with him and negotiate over a new deal. 

“But if the U.S. strikes, Iran will certainly respond. Iran is fully prepared to respond to any aggression,” Afghahi warned. 

Citing accurate information obtained from military circles, Afghahi said some Iranian officials even hope the U.S. makes a “mistake” so that they can “punish” it. 

According to the expert, Iran has recently sent a warning message to the U.S. through its embassy in Iraq, because Iran, after Trump fired former Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, sensed that something might have been under consideration in the White House. 

Afghahi said Iranian military officials told the Iraqi defense minister, Juma Inad Saadoun, that Iran will avenge the killing of the commander of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They asked Inad Saadoun to deliver this message to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. 

Heading a high-ranking delegation of Iraqi military commanders, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad Saadoun arrived in Tehran on Saturday at the formal invitation of his Iranian counterpart Amir Hatami. Inad Saadoun met with several Iranian high-ranking officials including his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Amir Hatami, Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of the IRGC Major General Hossein Salami, and Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

“We will definitely avenge the blood of martyr Lieutenant General Haj Qassem Soleimani in the field,” Salami said in a meeting with Saadoun in Tehran on Sunday.

Afghahi said the Iraqi defense minister’s visit to Tehran was a message to the U.S. that Iran is ready to respond to any aggression. However, the expert also said that the reports of a possible military attack on Iran may be only “psychological warfare” aimed at securing U.S. interests.


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