Trump is threatening Iran, and Biden says the Pentagon is stonewalling him on 'many things' with less than a month until his inauguration
President Donald Trump. Al Drago / Getty Images
Lame Duck presidents usually avoid doing anything too provocative in their final days, especially when it comes to national security. But Donald Trump is anything but typical.
Trump threatened Iran after a missile attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, which the US-Iranian-backed militias blamed.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden has said he has not received full information from the Pentagon.
It was unclear whether Biden had been informed of the situation with Iran, which he inherited in 27 days.
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President Donald Trump is leaving the White House in less than a month, but you wouldn't tell by his behavior.
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Aside from refusing to concede President-elect Joe Biden, the president has continued to threaten Iran with military action and his administration has reportedly discussed possible responses to recent missile attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad, which are believed to be militias were carried out by Iranians.
Meanwhile, Biden has said that he is being blocked by the Pentagon and has not been thoroughly briefed on some important issues.
After discovering the massive SolarWinds hack, Trump claimed that "everything is well under control". Biden said Wednesday that he had "seen no evidence" to back it up and suggested that the department had not received any information about the hack.
The president-elect said the Defense Department would "not even tell us about many things". The Pentagon pushed back this claim, describing it as "manifestly false" in a statement on Wednesday.
It was unclear whether Biden had been briefed on the situation with Iran and what action Trump could take.
The Biden transition team made no comment when contacted by Insider.
Trump seriously warned Iran in his final days in office
Trump at a ceremony on December 7th. Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images
Trump has been an inherently unorthodox president since he was sworn in, but his atypical leadership approach has been particularly strong since he lost the election to Biden.
Most Lame Duck presidents would not dream of threatening an opponent with war or military action. They typically focus on the final legacy guidelines when their employees update their colleagues during the transition. But Trump did not shy away from it.
In mid-November, Trump reportedly asked top aides for military options against Iran over its nuclear program, but was ultimately deterred by senior advisors from causing a major conflict during his final term in office. Iran has violated the provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal, which has steadily collapsed since Trump withdrew from the US in May 2018.
More recently, he has attacked Iran over the attacks on the embassy in Baghdad.
"Our embassy in Baghdad was hit by several rockets on Sunday. Three rockets could not be fired. Guess where they come from: IRAN," Trump tweeted on Wednesday. "Now we're hearing gossip about additional attacks against Americans in Iraq. Some friendly health advice to Iran: If an American is killed, I will hold Iran accountable. Think about it."
The attack damaged the embassy premises and killed at least one Iraqi civilian, US diplomatic sources told NPR.
"The December 20, 2020 missile attack on Iraq's green zone was almost certainly carried out by an Iran-backed rogue militia group," Central Command said in a statement, adding that the 21-missile attack "was clearly NOT to be avoided Losses."
Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo specifically accused "Iranian-backed militias". The US is now considering closing the embassy in Iraq, Axios reported.
But General Frank McKenzie, head of central command, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that he did not know "to what extent Iran is complicit".
"We're not looking for a war, and I don't think they're looking for one either," McKenzie said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet that Trump had "ruthlessly" accused Iran of being behind the attack. "Trump will bear full responsibility for every adventurism on his way out," said Zarif.
"Trump ends the year the way he started it, trying to provoke a catastrophic war."
Trump's threats against Iran came almost a year after ordering a drone strike that killed the country's top general, Qassem Soleimani, and pushed Washington and Tehran to the brink of war. The attempt on Soleimani was inspired in part by a missile attack in Iraq that killed an American contractor in late December 2019.
Before that, however, tensions between the US and Iran were high, largely due to Trump's controversial decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and to re-impose sanctions as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign to combat the Iranian economy.
A top Iranian scientist was murdered in November. Iran accused Israel of orchestrating the killing. Experts have suggested the U.S. was also involved, saying the assassination was part of Trump's desire to derail Biden's ambitions to revert to the 2015 deal. Some analysts suggest that Trump could take further action to tie Biden's hands.
"Kind reminder, before Trump does the crazy thing he's up to with #Iran, it's all his fault," tweeted Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, on Wednesday. "He inherited a working diplomatic nuclear deal and thawed relations, blew it all up to try the 'maximum pressure' that predictably failed, and now we're back."
Derek Johnson, CEO of anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, said: "I see Trump ending the year the way he started it, trying to provoke a catastrophic war with Iran."
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