Outgoing Trump 'mulled strike' on Iran nuclear site: report
During a meeting at the Oval Office last Thursday, the outgoing Republican leader asked several top aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, "whether he had options to take action against Iran's main nuclear site in the coming weeks," the newspaper said.
The senior officials "dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike," warning him that such an attack could escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of his presidency, the Times wrote.
Trump reportedly asked the question after a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran was continuing to stockpile uranium.
According to the Times, the most likely target of such a strike would have been Natanz, where the IAEA reported that Tehran's "uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr Trump abandoned in 2018," three years after it was signed in a bid to curb Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Decades-old tensions between Tehran and Washington escalated after Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
He first reintroduced sanctions and then tightened them even further after scrapping the nuclear accord.
Those moves torpedoed the deal, President Hassan Rouhani's signature foreign policy achievement, and bolstered conservatives who argue that the US cannot be trusted.
The measures have all but deprived Iran of vital oil revenues and isolated its banks, triggering a harsh recession and slashing the value of the rial.
European partners in the accord have struggled to keep the deal afloat despite Trump's efforts to destroy it, and are hoping for a renewed diplomatic approach after the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden on November 3, although Trump refuses to concede his loss.
While the outgoing Trump has declared Iran an arch-foe and sought to isolate it globally, president-elect Biden has proposed to offer Iran a "credible path back to diplomacy”.
Biden has indicated he wishes to return the US to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The Trump administration has pledged to step up the punitive measures, which some critics see as an attempt to build up a "wall of sanctions" that Biden would have difficulty tearing down once he takes office.
Agencies contributed to this report.