The United States and Israel could have some potential surprises waiting in store for Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, including the possibility of launching strikes against a nuclear facility.
President Donald Trump reportedly asked senior advisers last week about possible options that he could take against Iran’s primary nuclear site, which came a day after a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that Iran was stocking up on nuclear materials.
“Any strike — whether by missile or cyber — would almost certainly be focused on Natanz, where the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that Iran’s uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump abandoned in 2018,” The New York Times reported. “The agency also noted that Iran had not allowed it access to another suspected site where there was evidence of past nuclear activity.”
The report said that after Trump met with top U.S. officials to discuss potential options, those officials left the meeting believing that a strike on the nuclear facilities had been taken off the table. The report cautioned that the administration’s plans could change if any Americans are killed over the next couple of months, which comes as officials worry about a potential strike by Iran as the one-year anniversary of death of Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani approaches. The report said that the administration could potentially strike Iranian assets and allies inside Iraq.
The New York Times added:
The episode underscored how Mr. Trump still faces an array of global threats in his final weeks in office. A strike on Iran may not play well to his base, which is largely opposed to a deeper American conflict in the Middle East, but it could poison relations with Tehran so that it would be much harder for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, as he has promised to do. …
The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran now had a stockpile of more than 2,442 kilograms, or over 5,385 pounds, of low-enriched uranium. That is enough to produce about two nuclear weapons, according to an analysis of the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. But it would require several months of additional processing to enrich the uranium to bomb-grade material, meaning that Iran would not be close to a bomb until late spring at the earliest — well after Mr. Trump would have left office. …
Mr. Trump has argued since the 2016 campaign that Iran was hiding some of its actions and cheating on its commitments; the inspectors’ report last week gave him the first partial evidence to support that view. The report criticized Iran for not answering a series of questions about a warehouse in Tehran where inspectors found uranium particles, leading to suspicion that it had once been some kind of nuclear-processing facility. The report said Iran’s answers were “not technically credible.” …
A separate report from The Jerusalem Post noted that this is not the first time that a U.S. administration has considered launching strikes against Iran at the end of a presidential administration.
“In 2008, after the election that brought former US president Barack Obama to power, there were some officials in Israel who were confident that the previous president, George W. Bush, would not leave office with Iran’s nuclear facilities still standing. They were wrong. Iran’s nuclear facilities are not only still standing; they have grown in quality and quantity,” The Jerusalem Post reported. “This is important to keep in mind amid speculation – once again during a presidential lame duck period – that in his last few weeks in office, Donald Trump will either order U.S. military action against Iran or give Israel a green light, as well as some assistance, to do so on its own.”
Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said in an interview with Fox News last week that he thought that there was a “possibility” that Israel could launch an attack against Iran before Democrat Joe Biden takes office.
“Israel follows the Begin doctrine which means that they will not accept a hostile state having the most destructive weapons on Earth,” McMaster said. “And we have seen this in the past with Israeli Defense Force strikes in Syria. Remember 2007, when North Korea was helping construct a nuclear weapons facility in the Syrian desert, and the Israeli Defense Force struck that, and also similar strikes in Iraq as well earlier than that. So I think that it’s a possibility.”
McMaster also warned against Biden trying to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, saying that it would be “a really big mistake.”
“The Iran nuclear deal was a political disaster masquerading as a diplomatic triumph,” he said. “It was a fundamentally flawed agreement, but what it didn’t do, and it didn’t — it didn’t consider really two fundamental issues that we have to take into consideration when you’re dealing with Iran, first of all, the hostile ideology of the regime, the ideology of the revolution, and, secondly, this four-decade-long proxy war against us, and the big payoffs to Iran, when the deal was signed, as well as the relief of sanctions.”
“What did they do with that money?” he continued. “They applied that money to intensifying the sectarian violence across the region, in an effort really to put a proxy army on the border of Israel.”