Netanyahu urged Trump to attack Iran after he lost the presidency — report

General Mark Milley said to have battled against former US president’s push for a missile strike, facing down his ‘circle of Iran hawks,’ including VP Pence and the then-Israeli PM

US president Donald Trump (left) welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
US president Donald Trump (left) welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Donald Trump to launch a military strike against Iran after it was clear that the former US president had lost the 2020 election, a report said Thursday.

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, battled to prevent Trump from ordering a strike against Iran, while the president was circled by hawks, including Netanyahu, pressuring him to execute such a strike, according to a report Thursday by the New Yorker.

“If you do this, you’re gonna have a fucking war,” Milley reportedly warned Trump at one point.

Other foreign policy advisers, including then-vice president Mike Pence, also reportedly pushed for military action against Iran.

When Milley asked why they were so intent on attacking the Iranians, at a meeting where Trump was not present, Pence replied: “Because they are evil.”

Milley believed that Trump did not want a war, but said the outgoing president kept pushing for a missile strike in response to Iranian provocations against US interests in the region. The chairman ultimately succeeded in preventing such a strike in the tail-end of Trump’s term.

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“In the months after the election, with Trump seemingly willing to do anything to stay in power, the subject of Iran was repeatedly raised in White House meetings with the President, and Milley repeatedly argued against a strike,” the New Yorker piece reported. Milley “was worried that Trump might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified. Trump had a circle of Iran hawks around him,” it said, and Netanyahu “was also urging the Administration to act against Iran after it was clear that Trump had lost the election. ‘If you do this, you’re gonna have a fucking war,’ Milley would say.”

On January 3, 2021, the defeated president convened his advisers in the Oval Office to discuss fresh reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear activities. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told Trump at that meeting that “it was not possible to do anything militarily at that point,” the New Yorker said. “Their attitude was that it was ‘too late to hit them.’ After Milley walked through the potential costs and consequences, Trump agreed. And that was that: after months of anxiety and uncertainty, the Iran fight was over.”

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies to Senate Armed Services Committee about the budget, March 4, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Israel, under Netanyahu, warned repeatedly that it would act independently against Iran if necessary to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“We will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. There can be no going back to the previous nuclear agreement. We must stick to an uncompromising policy of ensuring that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said last November, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers from which Trump withdrew in 2018.

“The IDF will forcefully attack anyone who takes part, from near or far, in activities against the State of Israel or Israeli targets. I am saying this plainly and am describing the situation as it is — the response and all the plans have been prepared and practiced,” Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Aviv Kohavi said in December of the same year.

Netanyahu’s successor, Naftali Bennett, has taken an approach of increased dialogue with the current US administration of Joe Biden on the matter, although he too has reserved Israel’s right to take independent action.

Israel is convinced that Iran is working to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal, and is believed behind a series of strikes and sabotage efforts — some of which it has acknowledged — aimed at setting back the regime’s rogue nuclear program.

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