President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.
The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.
It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.
In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for U.S. policy but leave it to U.S. military commanders, diplomats and other U.S. officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.
“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.
The White House declined to comment.
The plan is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programs and support for militants, several sources said.
“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said another senior administration official.
The proposal also targets cyber espionage and other activity and potentially nuclear proliferation, the official said.
The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.
The proposal includes more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former U.S. official said.
The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi‘ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.
In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.