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Ex-defense secretary: Trump sought to strike top Iranian officer for political reasons

Then-US secretary of defense Mark Esper, with US President Donald Trump, speaks on vaccine development on May 15, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Then-US secretary of defense Mark Esper, with US President Donald Trump, speaks on vaccine development on May 15, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Mark Esper, Donald Trump’s second and last secretary of defense, says in a new book that the former US president wanted to strike a senior Iranian military commander in August 2020, several months before the election.

Esper writes that General Mark Milley, who headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him that Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security advisor called to say that “the president wanted to strike a senior military officer who was operating outside of Iran,” according to The Guardian.

“Milley and I were aware of this person and the trouble he had been stirring in the region for some time. But why now? What was new? Was there an imminent threat? What about gathering the national security team to discuss this?” Esper writes.

“Milley said he was ‘stunned’ by the call, and he sensed that ‘O’Brien put the president up to this,’ trying to create news that would help Trump’s re-election,” he adds.

In January 2020, the US struck Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force in Baghdad.

“Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!” Trump tweeted in September 2020.

Many feared he would attempt to provoke a war with Iran as the November 2020 election neared.

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