A day after an Australian ABC report went viral with the claim that the White House has drawn up plans to strike Iran's alleged nuclear facilities as early as next month, Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Friday morning it's a "complete fiction".
The Australian Broadcast Corporation report cited high level defense and intelligence figures: "Senior figures in the Australia's Turnbull government have told the ABC they believe the US is prepared to bomb Iran's nuclear capability," and perhaps most alarmingly added, "The bombing could be as early as next month."
Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin questioned Mattis about the report on Friday:
I asked Mattis about report US preparing strikes against Iran.
MATTIS: "I have no idea where the Australian news people got that information. I am confident it is not something that is being considered right now. I think it is a complete, frankly, it's fiction."
The ABC report, based on statements from senior Australian officials privy to the "Five Eyes" intelligence sharing program that also includes the US, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, included the following:
- Senior Government figures have told the ABC they believe the Trump administration is prepared to bomb Iran
- They say Australian defence facilities would likely play a role in identifying possible targets
- But another senior source, in security, emphasizes there is a difference between providing intelligence and "active targeting"
ABC further noted that secretive Australian defense and intelligence facilities would likely cooperate with the United States and Britain in identifying targets in a strike on Iran, based on unnamed sources.
However, officials were also quoted as distinguishing "a big difference between providing accurate intelligence and analysis on Iran's facilities and being part of a 'kinetic' mission. The intelligence source said further, "Developing a picture is very different to actually participating in a strike."
The report came the same day that Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's elite IRGC Quds force, personally threatened President Donald Trump, saying "Come. We are ready. If you begin the war, we will end the war," and as a White House policy meeting on Iran was convened by national security adviser John Bolton.
Previously, on Wednesday Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement through official sources, saying the US should forget about any and all negotiations so long as Iran remains under threat, which is a refrain of Iran's consistent position since the US began pressuring European allies to not deal with the regime since the US pulled out of the 2015 JCPOA. Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said that "one-way negotiations" in the current political climate are impossible.