State and Pentagon officials were rattled by the request

By Dion Nissenbaum

WASHINGTON—On a warm night in early September, militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy.

The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot, harming no one. But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where President Trump’s national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response.

As part of the talks, Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, generated concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials say.

“It definitely rattled people,” said one former senior U.S. administration official. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran, the officials said. But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.

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