President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, asked the Pentagon last fall to develop military options for a strike against Iran following a mortar attack in Baghdad by a Tehran-backed militant group.
While it is unclear if the proposals were eventually sent to the White House or if the president knew of the plans, Bolton’s request worried many in the Pentagon and the State Department concerned with the more hawkish approach toward Tehran.
“It definitely rattled people,” one former senior U.S. administration official told the Wall Street Journal. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
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Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the newspaper that the council “coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats.”
“We continue to review the status of our personnel following attempted attacks on our embassy in Baghdad and our Basra consulate, and we will consider a full range of options to preserve their safety and our interests,” he said.
The mortar attack targeted Baghdad’s diplomatic quarter, which is home to the U.S. Embassy. The three mortars, however, landed in an open lot and nobody was harmed in the attack.
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Bolton, a hawk who previously served as ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has been vocal about his support for a regime change in Tehran and the report of the military options against Iran highlight the more confrontational approach toward the Islamic Republic the administration has taken since he took the post at the NSC in April.
While Bolton’s approach has seen him butt heads with a number of people in Trump’s Cabinet – most notably former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis – he has found an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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Last year, Bolton quickly pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear-containment deal brokered during the Obama administration and tightened economic sanctions against Iran – moves that were championed on the campaign trail in 2016 by then-candidate Trump.
In speech in September, Bolton sent a stark warning to Tehran that there would be “hell to pay” if the country threatened America or its allies.