US president Donald Trump has told his top advisers he does not want to get the United States involved in a war with Iran, three US officials said on Thursday. ‘He doesn’t want to go to war. It’s not who he is,’ one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Trump has communicated to his national security team and other aides that wants to keep tensions with Tehran from boiling over into an armed conflict, the officials said.
But he has also made clear that he will protect US interests in the region, one official said. US intelligence showed heightened activity by Iran or its proxies that US officials took as a threat against American targets in the region.
Trump won the 2016 election in part by promising to stay out of conflicts abroad after what he viewed as costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier this year he ordered US troops out of Syria but was persuaded to leave some in.
Trump told reporters on Thursday that he hoped the United States was not heading to war with Iran as he met with Switzerland president Ueli Maurer, whose nation has served as a liaison conduit between the two countries since they do not have diplomatic relations.
’Hope not,’ Trump said when asked by reporters if Washington was going to war with Tehran.
Tensions have escalated in recent days with increasing concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad following weekend attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, Iran said on Friday it could ’easily’ hit US warships in the Gulf, the latest in days of sabre-rattling between Washington and Tehran, while its top diplomat worked to counter US sanctions and salvage a nuclear deal denounced by president Donald Trump.
’Even our short-range missiles can easily reach (US) warships in the Persian Gulf,’ Mohammad Saleh Jokar, the deputy for parliamentary affairs of the elite Revolutionary Guards, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.
’America cannot afford the costs of a new war, and the country is in a bad situation in terms of manpower and social conditions,’ he added.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said this week Tehran would not negotiate another nuclear deal after Washington last year quit a 2015 international pact that put curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Trump believes the economic pressure will force Tehran to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear and missile programs and on its support for proxies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. He has said publicly he wants to pursue diplomacy after quitting the deal and moving to cut all Iranian oil exports.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to Japan and China, said the international community and remaining signatories of the nuclear deal should act to save the accord as ’supportive statements’ are not enough.
Last week, Iran notified the five remaining signatories that it would reduce some commitments under the 2015 deal. Tehran has asked the other signatories, including Germany, Britain and France, to help protect its economy from US sanctions.
’Safeguarding the (nuclear accord) is possible through practical measures, and not only through supportive statements,’ Zarif was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
’If the international community feels that this (nuclear) accord is a valuable achievement, then it should take practical steps just like Iran does,’ Zarif said on Iranian state television. ’The meaning of practical steps is fully clear: Iran’s economic relations should be normalised.’