Trump says he hopes there’ll be no war between US, Iran

Source: Trump says he hopes there’ll be no war between US, Iran | The Times of Israel

US president makes comment ahead of meeting with Swiss president, reportedly aimed at opening communications with Tehran

President Donald Trump welcomes Switzerland's Federal President Ueli Maurer to the White House in Washington, May 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Donald Trump welcomes Switzerland’s Federal President Ueli Maurer to the White House in Washington, May 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he hopes mounting tensions with Iran do not spiral into war.

“Hope not,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about a possible armed conflict with Tehran, ahead of his meeting at the White House with Swiss President Ueli Maurer.

Trump was set to meet with Maurer in an effort to open a communications channel with Iran, CNN reported.

The meeting would discuss “Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues,” the White House said.

Trump has expressed interest in speaking with the Iranians, although Tehran has not reciprocated, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying that negotiations with Washington would be “poison.”

As the US and Iran have no diplomatic ties, the Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the country and serves as a diplomatic channel between Washington and the Islamic Republic. Switzerland also hosted negotiations to finalize the nuclear deal.

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Mediterranean Sea while the ship travels to the Persian gulf, April 25, 2019. (US Navy/Matt Herbst)

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared in recent weeks with a war of words between American and Iranian leaderships, allegations of sabotage attacks targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline claimed by Yemen’s Iranian-allied rebels, and the dispatch of US warships and bombers to the region.

At the root of the recent spike in Persian Gulf tensions appears to be Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran to cripple the country’s economy.

Last week, US officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on US forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat.

Iran’s supreme leader said on Tuesday that “there is not going to be any war” with the United States, but that there will also be no renegotiation of the nuclear deal.

In a speech to state officials, Khamenei said the showdown between the Islamic Republic and the United States was a test of resolve rather than a military encounter.

“This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war. Neither we nor them [the US] seek war. They know it will not be in their interest,” he said, as quoted on the official Khamenei.ir website.

Iranian demonstrators raise placards and portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as they chant anti-US slogans during a rally in the capital Tehran on May 10, 2019. (STR/AFP)

On Wednesday, however, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps warned Tehran was on the brink of full-on conflict with its enemy.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday in Sochi, Russia: “We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”

The US State Department on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, and Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programs in the country.

On Monday, Trump rejected a report saying he was considering sending 120,000 troops to counter Iran, but didn’t rule out deploying “a hell of a lot more” soldiers in the future.

Also on Wednesday, Iran formally dropped the limitations on uranium enrichment and the production of heavy water that were laid down in its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an official from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced.

The official said the move was in accordance with instructions from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and was part of a recent 60-day Iranian ultimatum for renegotiating the pact, the regime-affiliated Iranian Students News Agency reported.

Meanwhile in Washington, lawmakers from both parties in Congress demanded more information on the White House’s claims of rising threats in the Middle East. The top leaders in Congress — the so-called Gang of Eight– were to receive a classified briefing from the administration on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the White House has resisted a wider presentation for all lawmakers, part of what Democrats say is a pattern of stonewalling. Some Republicans, including Senator Mitt Romney, sought out their own briefings.

Pelosi said Trump has “no business” moving toward a Middle East confrontation without approval from Congress.

“We have to avoid any war with Iran,” she told fellow Democrats in a meeting, according to a person in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss comments from the private gathering.

 

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