Trump Sought Options for Attacking Iran to Stop Its Growing Nuclear Program

Vastavam web: 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 meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. 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 Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Trump asked his top national security aides what options were available and how to respond, officials said. After Mr. 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, according to administration officials with knowledge of the meeting. Mr. Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq, officials said. A smaller group of national security aides had met late Wednesday to discuss Iran, the day before the meeting with the president.

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.

Since Mr. Trump dismissed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other top Pentagon aides last week, Defense Department and other national security officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term. Vice President Dick Cheney later wrote in his memoir that he supported the idea. President George W. Bush did not, but the result was a far closer collaboration with Israel on a cyberstrike against the Natanz facility, which took out about 1,000 of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.