Administration officials told The Daily Beast that President Trump has “checked out” over Iran, and has handed decision-making powers over to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and other members of his White House team.
Officials said that the US president has told Mr Pompeo and other officials to implement any action they want to take in Iran before the end of his presidency, as long as it does not start “World War III.”
President Trump has been personally involved in the administration’s “maximum pressure” approach to Iran since 2016, implementing multiple sanctions on the country and ordering the killing of its top general, Qassem Soleimani, on 3 January 2020, according to Business Insider.
Since the US election on 3 November, the president has attempted to damage the US’ relationship with Iran further, after widespread reports suggested that President-elect Joe Biden would take a softer approach with the country.
Mr Biden is expected to revive a nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers that was abandoned by Mr Trump in 2018, which would offer the country financial relief in return for a limit on nuclear activities.
In early November, Mr Trump asked his top aides if the US could attack Iran’s main nuclear site, as he tried to reignite tensions in the region, according to The New York Times.
However, one official said that Mr Trump has recently abandoned his personal attempts to undermine Mr Biden in Iran and has instead become consumed by his fruitless efforts to overturn the 2020 US election.
Officials said that Mr Pompeo and his team have already made progress on actions they want to take and are now planning on implementing more sanctions on Iran over the next few weeks.
The US introduced sanctions on companies in Russia and China that were helping Iran with its missile programme last week, while officials told The Daily Beast that individuals and organisations linked to the country will be hit with sanctions over the next few days.
The Trump administration is also believed to have been aware of the assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, prior to him being killed in a targeted attack in Tehran, Iran, last week.
Israel, which is a close US ally, is suspected to be behind the attack, according to Politico. Iran has threatened to retaliate for both the deaths of Fakhrizadeh and Soleimani.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration will withdraw dozens of its diplomats from the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, as tensions rise throughout the region.
The withdrawal of diplomats was described to the Post by a US State Department official as a “de-risking”, ahead of the anniversary of the killing of Soleimani by a US drone strike in Baghdad.
The official, who spoke under anonymity, said that the withdrawal will continue after the anniversary date. Donald Trump’s presidency ends on 20 January.
The State Department did not provide an official confirmation of the staff reduction in Baghdad, but told the Post that ensuring the safety of US employees is its “highest priority.”
“The State Department continually adjusts its diplomatic presence at Embassies and Consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, the health situation, and even the holidays,” a department official said.
They confirmed that the US ambassador Matthew Tueller will remain in Iraq, while the embassy will continue to operate as normal.
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