President Donald Trump asked senior advisers last Thursday about potential options for attacking Iran’s main nuclear site, according to US media reports.
The New York Times reports that an Oval Office meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material.
A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike.
The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
The White House has not commented on the accounts of the meeting.
The advisers argued that military action could lead to a broader conflict in the region in the last weeks of his presidency, according to the officials.
“He asked for options. They gave him the scenarios and he ultimately decided not to go forward,” one official told Reuters news agency.
Another told the Wall Street Journal that “a conflict with Iran ends badly for everyone involved”.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned on Tuesday “any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response”.
The landmark nuclear deal saw the US and five other world powers give Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in return for limits on sensitive activities to show it was not developing nuclear weapons.
President Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, saying it was “defective at its core”, and reinstated US sanctions in an attempt to force Iran’s leaders to negotiate a replacement.
They have refused to do so and retaliated by rolling back a number of key commitments, including those on the production of enriched uranium.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on 20 January, has said he will consider rejoining the nuclear deal so long as Iran returns to full compliance and commits to further negotiations.
The US and Iran came close to war this January, after Trump ordered a drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, saying the Revolutionary Guards general was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops.
Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US forces. No Americans were killed, but more than 100 were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.