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Watch: Trump asked about attacking Iran, U.S. official says
US President Donald Trump last week sought options for attacking Iran to stop its nuclear programme during the last two months in office, officials in his administration have said.
Mr Trump was reportedly dissuaded from such action during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday with top national security advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
The New York Times, which first reported the meeting, said his advisers persuaded Mr Trump that any strike would likely precipitate a wider conflict.
"He asked for options. They gave him the scenarios and he ultimately decided not to go forward," the official said.
The White House declined to comment.
A strike on Iran’s nuclear programme would likely target the Natanz site, where the United Nations nuclear watchdog reported last week that Tehran has stockpiled 12 times more enriched uranium it is permitted under its 2015 deal with world powers.
After Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear agreement in 2018, he has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign of crippling sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to renegotiate a tougher deal, something it has refused.
Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and that it does not seek atomic weapons.
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York, said Tehran would see off any threat.
“Iran has proven to be capable of using its legitimate military might to prevent or respond to any melancholy adventure from any aggressor," he said.
Mr Trump, who lost the presidential election to Joe Biden, is yet to concede defeat and has continued issuing orders seeking to cement his legacy, including seeking to withdraw US troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, in line with his 2016 campaign promise to end America’s involvement in endless foreign wars.
In October, Mr Trump tweeted that US troops should leave Afghanistan by Christmas.
The Pentagon has told commanders to begin planning to remove troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by January 15. Half of the 4,500 troops in Afghanistan would be brought home, while fewer than 3,000 troops would remain in Iraq, the New York Times reported. Most of the 700 American soldiers in Somalia would also be drawn down.
But on Monday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell strongly opposed any move to withdraw more troops from the Middle East, saying it would hand a win to “terrorists”.
"We're playing a limited – limited – but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home," Mr McConnell said in a speech to the Senate. "They would love that."
The transition team for Mr Biden, who is due to assume office on January 20, declined to comment.
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