Trump asked for options for attacking Iran last week, but held off: reports

Advisers persuaded Trump not to go ahead with a strike. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Trump asked for options for attacking Iran last week, but held off: reports

  • Donald Trump made the request during a meeting with his top national security aides

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, with two months left in office, asked for options on attacking Iran’s main nuclear site last week but ultimately decided against taking the dramatic step, a US official said on Monday.
Trump made the request during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday with his top national security aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the official said.
Trump, who has refused to concede and is challenging the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, is to hand over power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

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The official confirmed the account of the meeting in The New York Times, which reported that the advisers persuaded Trump not to go ahead with a strike because of the risk of a broader 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 comment.
Trump has spent all four years of his presidency engaging in an aggressive policy against Iran, withdrawing in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and imposing economic sanctions against a wide variety of Iranian targets.
His request for options came a day after a UN atomic watchdog report showed that Iran had finished moving a first cascade of advanced centrifuges from an above-ground plant at its main uranium enrichment site to an underground one, in a fresh breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
Iran’s 2.4 ton stock of low-enriched uranium is now far above the deal’s 202.8 kg limit. It produced 337.5 kg in the quarter, less than the more than 500 kg recorded in the previous two quarters by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In January, Trump ordered a US drone strike that killed Iranian military General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. But he has shied away from broader military conflicts and sought to withdraw US troops from global hotspots in keeping with a promise to stop what he calls “endless wars.”
A strike on Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz could flare into a regional conflict and pose a serious foreign policy challenge for Biden.
Biden’s transition team, which has not had access to national security intelligence due to the Trump administration’s refusal to begin the transition, declined to comment for this story.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”