The Times reported Friday that Trump, during a Wednesday morning meeting in the Situation Room, sent a message to his hawkish aides that he does not want the US pressure campaign against Iran to explode into an open conflict.
“Trump was firm in saying he did not want a military clash with the Iranians,” read the paper citing five senior officials who described the administration’s internal debate over Iran.
The account was echoed by Reuters news agency which said Trump had communicated to his national security team and other aides to avoid an armed conflict.
“He doesn’t want to go to war. It’s not who he is,” said one official speaking on condition of anonymity.
The report cited anonymous officials informed on the matter as saying that Trump had privately expressed concern that some of his advisers, such a John Bolton, were pushing for war.
Trump’s order comes a week after Bolton announced that the US was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to counter a “threat” from Tehran.
Hawks in Trump’s team have reportedly gone as far as drawing up plans for a possible military strike that could involve sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East.
American lawmakers from both parties have expressed frustration about the administration’s increasing war rhetoric and lacking consultation with Congress.
War with Iran to be much worse than Iraq war: SandersUS Sen. Bernie Sanders warned on Tuesday that war with Iran would be “many times worse than the Iraq War.”
In a move to quell lawmakers’ frustration, administration officials held a briefing for the Senate and House leaders from both parties later on Thursday.
Following the session, Democrat Senator Richard Durbin said, “It’s a situation where this president has surrounded himself with people, Pompeo and Bolton in particular, who believe that getting tough on a military basis with Iran is in our best interest.”
Various reports in the past two weeks have said that Trump has been specifically at odds with Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over their push for military confrontation with Iran.
Earlier this week, US media reported that Trump was considering replacing Bolton.