White House reportedly explored options to strike Iran

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the White House explored options to strike Iran militarily following a mortar attack on the US embassy in September in Baghdad that was linked to Iran.

National Security Adviser John Bolton asked the Pentagon to draw up ways the US could strike back at Iran. It's unknown if the president ever received those options.

Jerusalem Post:

The request, which could lead to direct military confrontation between Iran and the United States, raised concern in the Pentagon.

"It definitely rattled people," a former senior US administration official told the Journal." It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran." 

However, it is not clear if the proposals were ever delivered to Trump, even though they were compiled.  

Last year, Trump pushed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to strike in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack. In the end, Trump adopted a modest approach, but Mattis resigned because of security disputes with the president.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton argued repeatedly that the US should attack Iran and had supported regime change in the country. 

Official White House policy does not call for regime change in Iran, and Bolton has said he would implement the President's agenda. 

The Pentagon's reluctance to hit Iran is understandable. Iran could hit a wide range of US facilities in the Middle East in response to any attack. Our assets in the region have dwindled while Iran has used the money so generously given them by Barack Obama to improve their military. 

It's not that we couldn't or shouldn't hit Iran, the question is at what cost to us? This is the same dilemma faced by President Bush, and his national security team ended up advising against it.

Eventually, I think it will take a coalition that includes Israel, Saudia Arabia, and other Gulf states to take out Iran's regime. Meanwhile, we can continue to support dissident elements within Iran to see if the regime can be changed relatively peacefully. Failing that, the military option will still be viable, and will be activated if Iran can be shown to be continuing their development of nuclear weapons.