Attacking Iran's main nuclear site would have been an "extremely risky manoeuvre" for President Donald Trump to approve, potentially causing warfare in the Middle East for Joe Biden to deal with, says a US political commentator.
The International Atomic Energy Agency last week reported Iran's uranium stockpile is now 12 times larger than that allowed under the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned in 2018.
According to officials who spoke anonymously to the New York Times, Trump met with senior advisers on Thursday to discuss potential actions to take against the Middle Eastern nation, with the option of a military strike floated. It's said Trump is frustrated that sanctions have not forced Iran to negotiate a replacement to the nuclear deal.
But the advisers - including vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - dissuaded the President from launching an attack against the Natanz nuclear facility in what would be Trump's final weeks in office. The Times says Trump may still look at ways to strike Iranian assets or allies outside of the country.
The White House hasn't commented on Tuesday's reports.
Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, US political commentator Danielle McLaughlin said a strike isn't "an option that just sprung up overnight".
"American Presidents have wrestled with what to do with the Iranian nuclear programme for years. The Iran nuclear deal… was the Obama Administration's idea around constraining Iran that didn't include bombing," she said.
"But people like John Bolton and others in the national security framework here in the US, this has been an option that has existed for a long period of time. Of course, no one has yet decided to go through with it."
McLaughlin described it as an "extremely risky manoeuvre" that would have had "far-reaching implications" for President-elect Biden.
"The concern being it would set off any number of other incursions or potentially warfare within the Middle East itself," she said.
"To do it in this transition period, particularly, is the stranger thing. The idea that it is an option, that option has existed for decades. But the idea that you would do it as an outgoing President and create basically a mess for your successor has some people scratching heads over here."
Trump has not yet conceded the election, but Biden has been projected as the winner of the November US election and will be inaugurated in January.
The BBC reports that Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said that "any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response".
If the United States was to strike Iran - whether that be a missile or cyber attack - there is precedent for the Middle Eastern nation to retaliate.
On January 3, after weeks of tension between the two nations, Trump ordered the assasination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's infamous Quds force and considered one of the country's most powerful people. His death spurred threats of revenge from Iran's Supreme Leader, while Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations promised a military response.
Trump said the decision to kill Soleimani was to "stop a war" as the President claimed the Iranian was "plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel".
Days later, on January 8, Iran launched missiles at two US military bases in Iraq. While no deaths were recorded, it's reported more than 100 people were injured. Following that strike, Trump said Iran appeared to be "standing down".
The Times reported on Tuesday that officials are "especially nervous" about the one-year anniversary of Soleimani's death.