Donald Trump Doesn't Want to Fight Iran, Ex-Navy SEAL Commander Says, As White House Considers Options

Retired Navy SEAL commander Admiral William McRaven has suggested that President Donald Trump does not want to go to war with Iran, and urged the administration to consider creative options in responding to the recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure.

Though Iran denies involvement, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have both blamed Tehran for last weekend's attacks on the facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in the east of the country. The Iran-backed Houthi militia—currently fighting a Saudi-led coalition as part of Yemen's civil war—has claimed responsibility.

Trump has declared the U.S. military "locked and loaded" to respond to the strikes, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decried the suspected drone and cruise missile attack as an "act of war."

But for all the strong words, McRaven—a long-time critic of the president and the commander who oversaw the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011—suggested that no party involved wants a conflict to break out.

Speaking with NPR on Wednesday, McRaven said: "The president doesn't want to go to war in Iran. There is no doubt about it. He does not want to go to war in Iran. The Iranians certainly don't want to go to war with us. That would not end well with them."

But in such a high-stakes situation, escalation can quickly result in unintended consequences. This is why what McRaven called "the process"—bringing together foreign service officers, intelligence officers, law enforcement officers and other experts—is so important.

"If you don't have a process and you just leave it up to the president or the national security adviser, you're probably not going to always get the best outcome," he warned. "And the president is not a process guy. So again, this presents problems in how you're going to solve wickedly difficult national security issues."

The "process" should provide Trump with a selection of options for how to respond, the retired admiral continued, drawing on vast U.S. experience of dealing with Iran.

"What we don't want to do is overreact," McRaven explained. "Obviously, we're hoping that nobody gets killed...the last thing you want is loss of life. But there are a lot of opportunities, military options, diplomatic options, economic options that would and should be laid on the table for the president to give him some flexibility on how he wants to deal with Iran."

McRaven also dismissed suggestions of a full-scale invasion of Iran, suggesting such a plan would be "two, three, four times more challenging than anything we did in Iraq. That would be a horrible idea, and I have no doubt that that is not, not being contemplated by anybody in the military."

More realistic options include limited strikes against naval facilities and ships in the Persian Gulf, or attacking any Iranian airfields and missile launch sites that are suspected to have been used in the weekend's operation.

"The Iranians and the Americans have done this before," McRaven told NPR. "We in the military know how to moderate our response to provide a proportional response, and we'd be prepared to do that."

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In this file photo, retired Admiral William McRaven speaks at a Texas Tribune forum on February 5, 2015. Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images/Getty