IRAN has threatened a "crushing response" to any US strike after "Donald Trump was talked out of hitting the nuke site."
President Donald Trump asked for options for a strike on Iran's main nuclear site last week but decided against doing so.
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"Any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response," spokesman Ali Rabiei said, in remarks streamed on an official government website.
The president on Thursday asked whether he had any options to engage Iran after international inspectors found a significant increase in the nation's main nuclear site, according to a New York Times report on Monday.
Among the advisers include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley.
They told the president -reeling after his election defeat to Joe Biden days earlier -that such an act could quickly escalate into a "broader conflict", the Times reported.
Any attack, a physical missile or a cyber strike, would likely target Natanz, Iran's main nuclear site where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported the country's uranium stockpile was more than 12 times larger than the amount permitted under the nuclear accord Trump abandoned in 2018.
The IAEA also said it was not allowed access to another suspected site where there was evidence of previous nuclear activity.
Although Pompeo and Milley described the likelihood of a war erupting should the United States risk military escalation, administration officials with knowledge of the meeting suggest Trump was still looking for ways to attack Iran.
The meeting comes days after Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, prompting Pentagon officials to fear an escalation between the United States and Iran.
Following the president's firing of Esper by tweet, Pentagon officials told the New York Times they feared the president would try to escalate tensions with Iran during his final days in office.
Former Defense official turned Democratic Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin said, "There would only be a few reasons to fire a secretary of defense with 72 days left in an administration."
"One would be incompetence or wrongdoing, which do not seem to be the issue with Secretary Esper," she said. "A second would be vindictiveness, which would be an irresponsible way to treat our national security."
"A third would be because the president wants to take actions that he believes his secretary of defense would refuse to take," Slotkin ended, "which would be alarming."
On Wednesday before Trump's meeting with his advisers, the president met with a small group of national security aides discussing what to do with Iran.
Last month, Trump told Iran they had been "put on notice."
"If you f*** around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before," he said during an interview.
As Trump enters his lame duck period, his meeting shows how global threats will affect his final days in office. Any talk of a strike on Iran will push away the president's supporters, who openly oppose any conflict in the Middle East.
Increasing tensions with Iran will also harm president-elect Joe Biden's chances to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord that Trump pulled out of in 2018, something Biden promised to accomplish within his term.
The IAEA's report found that Iran has a stockpile of more than 2,442 kilograms (over 5,385 pounds), of low-enriched uranium, which is enough to produce two nuclear weapons. Iran's enriched uranium stockpile would have been under 660 pounds in the deal.
The agency also reported inspectors were barred from fully inspecting sites suspected of holding uranium and other nuclear materials. The report found Iran's answers to be "not technically credible" regarding a site where inspectors found traces of uranium.
However, it would take several months of processing to enrich the uranium to bomb-grade material, meaning Iran would not be able to create a bomb until the late spring, after Trump would leave office.
Although the amount has increased tremendously, it is still less than the amount Iran originally had in its stockpile before Obama brokered a nuclear accord with Iran in 2015.
As part of the accord, Iran shipped about 25,000 pounds, or 97 percent, of its fuel stockpile to Russia. This left Iran with less than what is needed to make a single weapon.
Iran stuck to the deal after Trump pulled the United States from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It wasn't until last year when Iran began to skirt the limits, touting Trump's violation of the accord's agreements as reason why Iran would not abide by them.
However, Iran has not rushed to build weapons– they have denied seeking to build a weapon despite evidence stolen by Israel years ago suggest it was Iran's plan not to do since 2003.
After the IAEA released its report last week, Trump was not the only one looking for affirmation in increasing tensions on Iran. Officials have said Pompeo is closely monitoring any events in Iraq should Iran or its proxy militias initiate any form of aggression against American diplomats or troops stationed there.
Pompeo also made plans to close the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad over concerns of threats, but has left it up to the next administration to decide. The Embassy, the largest American diplomatic mission in the world, is likely to take several months to close, just as mortar and rocket attacks against the embassy has fallen in recent weeks.
However, officials warned Pompeo's plan could be put into action should any Americans be killed before Inauguration Day.
This is a concern for many top officials, including U.S. special representative for Iran Elliott Abrams, who said increasing any pressure against Iran would continue into the Joe Biden administration.
Abrams, who also serves as the U.S. special representative to Venezuela, said Iran already has a number of sanctions for human rights violations. The country continues to face pressure for its ballistic missile program and its regional influence, as well as scrutiny from the United Nations.
"Even if you went back to the (deal) and even if the Iranians were willing to return," Abrams said. "This newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these really fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community."
Abrams evoked the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani during a missile strike which almost put the United States and Iran at war at the beginning of 2020.
Iran has long said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes despite the IAEA report saying Iran carried out nuclear activities in relation to the development of a nuclear explosive device near the end of 2003.
"Iran denies that it ever had a nuclear weapons program," Abrams said. "Therefore, it can't now say, well, things you found from 2003, were part of our old nuclear weapons program. They're caught in their own lie."
However, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations said Abrams' claims rang false.
"The policy of maximum pressure and sanctions against Iran has failed," said Alireza Miryousefi. "The U.S. effort to abuse this corrupt policy is futile and will only lead to further isolation of the U.S. on the international stage."
This also comes as Iranian politicians increase discuss the possibility of the United States, under Joe Biden's administration, returning to the Iran nuclear accord in exchange of lifting economic sanctions.
One of the advisers named in the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is on Wednesday due to visit Israel, which has long hinted at possible military action against its arch-enemy Iran.
"If I were the Iranians, I would not feel at ease" after the report, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said, adding that he was not aware of the Oval Office deliberations last Thursday.
"It is very important that the Iranians know that if, indeed, they suddenly dash toward high levels of enrichment, in the direction of nuclear weaponry, they are liable to encounter the military might of the United States – and also, perhaps, of other countries," Steinitz told Israel’s Army Radio.
"I personally don’t foresee that it’s probable that they (the United States) would want to cause insecurity in the world and the region," Rabiei said.
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