US under Trump 'very close' to war with Iran: report
The last months of former President Donald Trump’s term saw top US officials battling to avoid a war with Iran that would have given the Republican president an excuse to cling on to power despite the November 2020 electoral defeat, according to a report by The New Yorker.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Trump’s administration, had been engaged in an alarmed effort to ensure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran in an attempt to justify remaining in office.
The account of the behind-the-scenes struggle over Iran, which was pieced together after nearly two hundred interviews with well-placed sources, concluded that the general secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war.
Milley told associates there were two "nightmare scenarios" for the period after the November 3rd election: one was that Trump would try "to use the military on the streets of America to prevent the legitimate, peaceful transfer of power." The other was an external crisis involving Iran.
According to the senior official, the US came "very close" to conflict with the Islamic Republic because of Trump's "Hitler"-like embrace of the unfounded claim that the election had been stolen from him.
Milley feared Trump would have a "Reichstag moment" and manufacture a crisis in order to rescue the nation from it.
Since late in 2020, Milley had been having morning phone meetings with his staff, which he dubbed the "land the plane" calls.
Milley devised a plan for how to handle the perilous period leading up to the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, which included making sure that the US didn't unnecessarily go to war overseas. According to The New Yorker, he repeatedly met in private with the Joint Chiefs to warn them not to heed to unlawful orders from Trump.
He also reassured members of Congress, saying that while Trump might attempt a coup, he would not succeed in co-opting the American military. "Our loyalty is to the US Constitution," Milley told them.
The US military conducted a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020, killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) elite Quds Force.
The Trump administration initially justified the strike as an effort to deter imminent attacks on US embassies and personnel, but later insisted that Iran's actions in the months leading up to the strike had triggered the US right to self defence.
The killing of Iran's most powerful general caused tensions between the two countries to dramatically soar, raising fears of an all-out war to an all-time high.