Report: White House ordered shocking request for potential attack on Iran

It is not clear whether President Donald Trump was aware of the request by his national security adviser for options for a strike on Iran

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Following a September mortar attack near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that was blamed on Teheran, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton requested that the Pentagon provide options for a retaliatory strike on Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The Pentagon is said to have followed through on the order from the White House. However, according to the newspaper report, it is not clear what became of those plans and how great the chances were of such an attack taking place. It is also not totally clear, says the Journal, whether President Donald Trump was even aware of the request made by his national security adviser.

Still, Pentagon and State Department officials were said to have been shocked by the nature of the request. “It definitely rattled people,” a former senior administration official told the paper. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council told the paper that the council “coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats.”

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The attack that reportedly prompted Bolton to seek retaliation involved three mortars fired into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy.

The shells were said to have been launched by a group aligned with Iran. 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.

There was also an air strike near a U.S. diplomatic facility in Basra, Iraq. In response, the U.S. announced it would effectively close its consulate in Basra and relocate diplomatic personnel assigned there.

A new phase in confrontation

At the time, the White House blamed Shia militia groups and charged that “Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.” The New York Times reported back then that the Trump administration was signaling a new phase in its confrontation with Iran, threatening to retaliate for attacks by Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq.

Beyond warning that “America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” the White House offered no details about how the United States would retaliate against Iran for the attacks in Iraq. Officials at the Defense Department maintained at this point in September that there were no increased military preparations. Striking back, they warned, could provoke asymmetric attacks against American military and civilians by Iranian proxies elsewhere, according to the New York Times.

In late September, days after Trump and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani exchanged taunts at the annual opening of  the United Nations General Assembly, Bolton was speaking at an event elsewhere in New York and warned that “there will indeed be hell to pay” if Iran angers the United States, its allies, or harms U.S. citizens.