Following a September mortar attack near the US embassy in Baghdad that Washington blamed on Iran, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and the National Security Council he leads requested that the Pentagon provide options for striking Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The Pentagon did so, though the report said it was not clear what became of those plans and how close such a potential strike actually was, or if US President Donald Trump was even aware of the exchange.
Still, officials in the Pentagon and State Department were said to have been shocked by the offhand nature of the request — to provide plans for military action against a major regional power in response to a minor attack that caused no casualties.
“It definitely rattled people,” a former senior official in the administration told the paper. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
A spokesman for the NSC told the paper that the council “coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats.”
Bolton is known for his particularly hawkish stances, and prior to his appointment as national security adviser had advocated preemptive strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.
In September he warned Iran of “hell to pay” and “serious consequences” if it acts against the US, using some of the most aggressive language employed by administration officials in recent decades.
He was also a major voice inside the George W. Bush administration in favor of the 2003 Iraq invasion. In the past he has also advocated for Israel bombing Iran to curtail its nuclear ambitions.
His combative approach to global conflict was previously seen as somewhat mitigated by the moderating voice of James Mattis, but the US defense secretary’s resignation last month has opened the door to more hardline policies by the administration.
The mortar attack in Baghdad, on September 7, saw three shells hit the ultra-secure green zone, which houses Iraqi authorities and the US embassy.
Washington blamed militias supported by Iran, and said it would “respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” though no action by US forces since has been directly linked to that attack.
Agencies contributed to this report.