Mark Esper
Mark EsperReuters

Former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper claims in his new memoir that former US President Donald Trump sought to kill a senior Iranian military officer, The Guardian reported on Friday.

According to the report, Esper writes in the book that shortly before the 2020 election, Trump’s National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, “stunned” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by saying the President wanted to eliminate the officer who was operating outside the Islamic Republic.

“This was a really bad idea with very big consequences,” writes Esper, adding that Milley suspected O’Brien saw the strike purely in terms of Trump’s political interests.

Throughout the memoir, Esper presents himself as one of a group of aides who resisted bad or illegal ideas proposed by Trump or subordinates – such as the proposed strike on the Iranian officer, according to The Guardian.

Among other such ideas that were discussed, Esper says, were sending “missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs”; sending 250,000 troops to the southern border; and dipping the decapitated head of a terrorist leader in pig’s blood as a warning to other Islamist militants.

At a meeting in July 2020, Esper writes, O’Brien pushed for military action against Iran over its uranium enrichment.

Esper’s book is subject to occasional redactions. In this case, it says “O’Brien was pushing for” one blacked out word “and military action”. Esper says the vice-president, Mike Pence, “subtly lean[ed] in behind” O’Brien, who said: “The president has an appetite to do something.”

Esper writes that Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, “jumped in to contradict this statement” and the moment passed.

However, a month or so later, on August 20, Esper says Milley told him O’Brien had called the evening before, to say “the president wanted to strike a senior military officer who was operating outside of Iran”.

“Milley and I were aware of this person and the trouble he had been stirring in the region for some time. But why now? What was new? Was there an imminent threat? What about gathering the national security team to discuss this?” writes Esper.

“Milley said he was ‘stunned’ by the call, and he sensed that ‘O’Brien put the president up to this,’ trying to create news that would help Trump’s re-election,” he continues.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Esper writes. “I had seen this movie before, where White House aides meet with the president, stir him up, and then serve up one of their ‘great ideas’. But this was a really bad idea with very big consequences. How come folks in the White House didn’t see this?”

In the case of O’Brien’s suggested strike on the Iranian officer, Esper writes that he told Milley he would do nothing without a written order from Trump.

Esper assumed the role of Defense Secretary in June of 2019, following the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned after two years in the job after a series of policy disagreements with Trump, climaxing with Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria.

Trump fired Esper in November of 2020, replacing him with National Counterterrorism Center Director Chris Miller. That announcement followed reports that Esper had planned to resign and had already prepared a letter of resignation.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)