Donald Trump was seriously considering an attack on Iranian nuclear installations last Thursday according to the New York Times

Chris Nineham


Donald Trump was seriously considering an attack on Iranian nuclear installations last Thursday according to the New York Times. The paper reports that he asked his defence officials at a post-election Oval Office meeting about options for attacking Iran after an update suggested that Iran has in increased its nuclear weapons capability. Even his hawkish team including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Minister Mike Pence felt they had to talk him down. They argued that a strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would almost certainly lead to retaliation and potentially an unplanned wider war at a time of political transition.

This is the second time Trump is known to have been considering a strike against Iran. In June 2019 he came within ten minutes of a missile attack on Iran in retaliation for the downing a US drone.

According to the New York Times, officials believe they have dissuaded Trump from ordering missile attacks on Iran, but they are apparently not ruling out cyber-attacks or special forces operations.

This terrifying incident is a reminder how far from being an isolationist Donald Trump is. During his presidency he has lurched from talk of pulling troops out of Afghanistan and the Middle East to provocations against North Korea, Iran and recently China. He has ratcheted up support for Saudi Arabia during its war on Yemen and accelerated the pivot to the East, an operation aimed at the military encirclement of China.

This combination, with all its confusion, partly reflects his sensitivity to his base which tends to be both nationalist and war weary. But it also suggests the US’s deeper problems as an imperial power under growing challenge.

It is an enormous relief that the most impulsive and reactionary president in living memory will soon be leaving the White House. But on fundamental foreign policy goals little will change as a result of the election. There is a cross party consensus on the need to step up US influence around the world. At the very same time as his defence team has been persuading Trump against starting war on Iran, the wider defence establishment is anxiously arguing against any thoughts of pulling troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan ‘prematurely’. Biden will have a different style, and he has made promises over Yemen and Saudi Arabia which the anti-war movement must try and hold him to. But his foreign policy will be driven by the desire for maximum power projection and in particular the containment of a rising China.

The anti-war movement needs to be on high alert in the weeks to come. But we must also intensify our campaign against the war on Yemen and build long term opposition to the new Cold War against China, which has wide political support on both sides of the Atlantic.

17 Nov 2020 by Chris Nineham

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