In July, the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facilities were damaged by a mysterious explosion. This month, Trump reportedly discussed options for hitting Natanz and other targets after UN inspectors said Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile was now 12 times higher than permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Trump.
For still undisclosed reasons, Trump ordered several nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers to fly 7,000 miles to the Middle East last weekend.
Was the assassination a one-off designed to damage Iran’s nuclear programme? Or could all this be a prelude to something more strategically explosive as Trump strives to secure his wished-for legacy as scourge of Iran and saviour of Israel?
Trump certainly needs a win. His Iran policy to date has mostly resulted in own goals. His “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign hurt the Iranian people but left their leaders unbowed. The regime is now closer to acquiring nuclear bomb-making capability than it would have been had Trump not reneged on the nuclear deal.