White House sought military options against Iran past year

The US embassy in Baghdad Iraq seen from across the Tigris river

The US embassy in Baghdad Iraq seen from across the Tigris river

The request from the council, which is led by national security adviser John Bolton, came after an attack in September on the US Embassy in Baghdad by a militant group aligned with Iran, according to the Journal.

The US blamed Tehran despite the Iranian administration denying the attack, which saw three mortar shells land in Baghdad's diplomatic quarter and close to the US Embassy last September. The mortars landed in an open lot and no injuries were reported, but Trump's national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response. Two days later however, amid ongoing protests in the southern city of Basra, unknown militants fired several rockets towards the U.S. consulate building.

The Pentagon regularly prepares all kinds of military options for all kinds of scenarios, many of which are not imminent at all, but this request reportedly rattled the war planners.

Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the NSC asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks, the WSJ said.

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"It definitely rattled people", a former senior United States administration official said of the request.

While the Pentagon complied with National Security Council's request, it was not clear whether Mr Trump knew of the request or whether plans to strike Iran were seriously considered, the Journal reported. Concerning statements include past comments made attacking the US' Iran strategy and his suggestion that the US might preemptively attack North Korea.

As a think tank scholar and Fox News commentator, Bolton often urged Washington to attack Iran, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled: "To stop Iran's bomb, bomb Iran". In fact, he pulled out of the nuclear deal that the world signed with the Iran back in May of past year, angering key European allies, while calling the deal "decaying and rotten" and "an embarrassment" to him "as a citizen". The administration has been pursuing a policy of regime change in all but name, and Bolton just brought on one of the most vocal advocates of regime change to work on the National Security Council.

A Reuters source said Sunday (January 13) the Pentagon was asked to draw up plans for striking Iran last fall.

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