President Donald Trump's administration is weighing military options against Iran that could even include war, according to a new report.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan detailed a plan last week at a gathering of national security officials, which includes deploying up to 120,000 armed forces to the Middle East, according to the New York Times. The hypothetical plan would reportedly be implemented if Tehran speeds up its nuclear weapons program — or in the event American troops are attacked by Iran. It is mainly a revision of previous plans, with updates allegedly called for by administration hawks led by Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton.
In possibly related news, four oil tankers in the Middle East — two owned by Saudi Arabia, one owned by the United Arab Emirates and one owned by Norway — were recently damaged by what Saudi and U.S. officials described as "sabotage" attacks, according to CBS News. On Monday, U.S. officials told CBS News their preliminary assessment was either that Iran or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to damage the vessels.
This is not the first time the Trump administration has taken an aggressive posture toward Iran. In addition to pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, which was a hallmark of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy legacy, Trump also decided to crack down on Iran petroleum exports last month as a way of bringing a regime he views as dangerous to heel.
"President Donald J. Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May," the White House said in a statement at the time. "This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue."
During a press conference last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that "with the announcement today, we’ve made clear our seriousness of purpose. We are going to zero. How long we remain there, at zero, depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders. We’ve made our demands very clear to the Ayatollah and his cronies."
Trump has even publicly feuded with intelligence officials, who have differed from his hard-line view on the threats posed by Iran.
"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond," Trump tweeted back in January. "Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"
In response, former CIA chief John Brennan tweeted to Trump, "Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy. All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security."