Trump Blames Iran for Attack on Saudi Arabian Oil Facility 

Posted September 16, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

 

 

Iranian general says country ready for ‘full-fledged war’ with US 

Posted September 16, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Iranian general says country ready for ‘full-fledged war’ with US | The Times of Israel

Amir Ali Hajizadeh warns that American bases up to 2,000 kilometers away are ‘within the range of our missiles,’ after Washington blamed Tehran for Houthi attack on Saudi oil

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. (screen capture: YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)

A top Iranian commander warned on Sunday that Tehran was prepared for an all-out war with the United States and said his country could launch advanced missiles at US bases and aircraft carriers within a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles).

The statement appeared to be a response to Washington casting blame on Iran Saturday after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the kingdom was temporarily halting production at two Aramco oil facilities that were attacked by the Yemeni rebels, interrupting about half of the company’s total output.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country, took responsibility for the attacks in the war against a Saudi-led coalition that has fought since 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognized Yemeni government. But the US blamed Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting, “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo added.

On Sunday, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying: “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” according to Reuters.

“Iran has always been ready for a ‘full-fledged’ war,” Hajizadeh added, without directly mentioning the attacks in Saudi Arabia.

ILLUSTRATIVE — A gas flame is seen near the Khurais oil facility in an area where operations are being expanded, about 60 miles southeast of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2008 (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Also on Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed the US accusations as “meaningless,” suggesting they were a pretext to retaliate against the Islamic Republic.

“Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement.

The allegations over Saturday’s strikes were meant to justify “future actions” against Iran, he added.

The drone attacks affected up to half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil, though the output should be restored within days, multiple news outlets reported, citing unidentified sources. It was unclear whether anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field.

The attacks followed weeks of similar drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes appeared to have caused the same amount of damage. The attacks likely will further increase tensions across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran has stepped up its verbal attacks on the United States in reaction to President Donald Trump nixing the 2015 nuclear deal and ramping up economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which have hobbled its economy.

Nevertheless, there has been talk of a potential meeting between Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, although the latter has said bilateral talks with the US are useless unless sanctions are lifted first. While Trump has said he is ready for a meetup with no preconditions, US Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin said Thursday that such a meeting was not yet in the cards.

 

Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis 

Posted September 16, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis | The Times of Israel

President says waiting for final confirmation of identity of attackers; approves the release of US strategic petroleum reserves ‘if needed’ to stabilize energy markets

This image provided on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco's Abaqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. The drone attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom's crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world's daily supply. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

This image provided on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco’s Abaqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. The drone attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom’s oil production threatened Sunday to fuel a regional crisis, as the US released new evidence to back up its allegation that Iran was responsible for the assault amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump said the US had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack — his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day — and assured his Twitter followers that “we are … locked and loaded” depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The tweets followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House that included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Hours earlier, senior US officials said satellite imagery and other intelligence showed the strike was inconsistent with one launched from Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had claimed responsibility.

Donald J. Trump

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Iran, meanwhile, called the US claims “maximum lies,” while a commander in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reiterated its forces could strike US military bases across the Mideast with their arsenal of ballistic missiles.

The US government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south.

Iraq denied Sunday that its territory was used for an attack on the Kingdom and US officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

The US officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out.

The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent US senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence.

“Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. “When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding.”

Satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows thick black smoke rising from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, September 14, 2019. (Planet Labs Inc via AP)

Actions on any side could break into the open a twilight war that’s been raging just below the surface of the wider Persian Gulf in recent months. Already, there have been mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America blames on Tehran, at least one suspected Israeli strike on Shiite forces in Iraq, and Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone.

The attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. It remained unclear how King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will respond to an attack targeting the heart of the Saudi oil industry.

Crude oil futures shot up 9.5% to $60 as trading opened Sunday evening in New York, a dramatic increase. A spike in oil prices could have negative effects for the global economy.

Saudi Arabia has promised to fill in the cut in production with its reserves, but has not said how long it will take to repair the damage. The Wall Street Journal cited Saudi officials as saying a third of output would be restored on Monday, but a return to full production may take weeks.

Trump said he had approved the release of US strategic petroleum reserves “if needed” to stabilize energy markets. The president said the final amount of the release, if any, would be “sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied.”

Images from the European Commission’s Sentinel-2 satellite examined by the AP showed black char marks at the heart of the Abqaiq plant on Sunday, marks not seen over the prior month. Identical marks are visible on the US imagery. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in August identified the area with the char marks as the plant’s stabilization area. The center said the area includes “storage tanks and processing and compressor trains — which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or destroying its operations.”

The state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco, which the kingdom hopes to offer a sliver of in a public stock offering, did not respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo directly blamed Iran for the Saudi attack on Twitter late Saturday, and officials worked to provide evidence for his claim the following day.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing on terrorism financing at the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo wrote. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

The US, Western nations, their Gulf Arab allies and UN experts say Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons and drones — a charge that Tehran denies.

US officials previously alleged at least one recent drone attack on Saudi Arabia came from Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias. Those militias in recent weeks have been targeted themselves by mysterious airstrikes, with at least one believed to have been carried out by Israel.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments.”

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said in a statement.

Separately, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office issued a statement on Sunday denying the drone attack came from there. Oil-rich Kuwait also said it would increase security around the country’s “vital sites” over the attacks.

Houthi leader Muhammad al-Bukhaiti reiterated his group’s claim of responsibility, telling The Associated Press on Sunday it exploited “vulnerabilities” in Saudi air defenses to strike the targets. He did not elaborate.

Iran, meanwhile, kept up its own threats.

Hajizadeh, the brigadier general who leads the country’s aerospace program, said in an interview published across Iranian media Sunday that Revolutionary Guard forces were ready for a counterattack if America responded, naming the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates as immediate targets, as well as US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

“Wherever they are, it only takes one spark and we hit their vessels, their air bases, their troops,” he said in a video published online with English subtitles.

With the UN General Assembly taking place in a little over a week, there had been speculation of a potential meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the summit’s sidelines, possibly in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions the American leader imposed on Tehran after unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear accord over a year ago.

But Trump seemed to reject that idea Sunday night, tweeting: “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” In fact, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters last week that “the president has said that he is prepared to meet with no conditions.”

If Iran had a hand in Saturday’s attack, it could be to bolster their position ahead of any talks, analysts say.

“The main point for Iran, in my opinion, is not necessarily to derail a meeting between Trump and Rouhani but to increase its leverage ahead of it,” said Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based risk management firm Le Beck International. “By carrying out such a major attack, Iran wants to send the message that the only way to decrease tensions is to comply with its demands regarding sanctions relief.”

However, he warned there could be a danger of Iran “overplaying” its hand.

“There will be no political benefit for Trump in a meeting with Rouhani if this meeting sends the message that the U.S. simply surrendered to Iranian demands,” he said.

 

US intel suspects Iranian cruise missiles hit Saudi oil facilities from Iraq base – DEBKAfile

Posted September 16, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: US intel suspects Iranian cruise missiles hit Saudi oil facilities from Iraq base – DEBKAfile

US intelligence experts are studying satellite images and other video evidence to track the source in Iraq of the major attack on key Saudi oil facilities on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Their first discovery was that cruise missiles rather than drones struck the Saudi oil refineries at Abqaiq, the largest in the world, and its second largest oil field at Khurais – both in the kingdom’s Eastern Provinces. They have also confirmed that the missiles were launched from a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militia base, despite Baghdad’s denials.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the investigation is also using video coverage by local Saudis showing multiple cruise missiles coming from the north and heading across the border towards the targeted locations in eastern Saudi Arabia. On one, a missile was clearly shown flying over the main border crossing at Hafar al-Batin and shot down by a Saudi air defense missile, although Saudi officials, in reporting the attack – large and disruptive enough to reduce the kingdom’s oil production by five million barrels a day, nearly half its output – have said nothing about intercepting any offensive projectiles. The two images carried at the top of this item show the wreckage of Iranian cruise missiles shot down near the Abqaiq processing plant.

The attack represented a major spike in Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia. Its import is shattering enough strategically to challenges Washington and Riyadh for a response in kind, namely a strike at Iran’s oil processing plants. The US and Saudi Arabia both possess the military resources for a comparable reprisal against Iran and will find it hard to evade this challenge.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a valued adviser to President Donald Trump, Sunday urged the White House  to consider hitting Iran back for its devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. “Hitting Iran’s own refineries would break the regime’s back,” he said and warned that Iran would not stop its “provocations” until it was forced to face the consequences.

According to our sources, the Trump administration can hold back for no more than a few days to release the results of its investigations into the attack on Saudi oil infrastructure. Washington will face heavy pressure to go public with those findings – not least, because the Iranian attack was likely just the first of a new wave of aggression against Gulf oil targets and other US allies, including Israel.
With this in mind, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, OC Operations Directorate, commented on Sunday: “We are facing a complex reality of the kind we have not known for many years. The next confrontation may erupt any day.”

 

Putin and Netanyahu mark Iranian bases in Syria for removal to 80km from Israeli border – DEBKAfile

Posted September 13, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Putin and Netanyahu mark Iranian bases in Syria for removal to 80km from Israeli border – DEBKAfile

Marking the Iranian bases in Syria to be distanced from the Israeli border took up most of the nearly five hours Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent in Sochi this week with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu.
In their intensive deliberations over large maps on Thursday, Sept. 12, the leaders were assisted by the Russian-speaking Israeli Minister Zeev Elkin, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, IDF Intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman and OC Operations Maj. Gen. Aharon Havilah.

The Israelis sat down with Gen. Shoigu for more than an hour and-a-half, after which Netanyahu visited Putin who greeted him by saying: “I understand you had an excellent meeting with Shoigu and we shall talk about this later.” The prime minister replied that the bond between Moscow and Jerusalem “had prevented unnecessary and dangerous friction between their countries,” and “I can say without reservation that it is a fundamental component of regional stability.”
What was discussed in their three-hour long conversation?

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that, in recent weeks, Putin has focused on redistributing Iranian forces in Syria by pulling them back to an 80km line from which they no longer pose a threat to northern Israel. He was persuaded to take this course by three considerations:

  1. He adopted the Netanyahu line which urges the removal of Iranian military forces from Syria, because he believes it will provide him with a bridge on which to strengthen his political and military cooperation with President Donald Trump.
  2. While Moscow and Washington are at odds on key issues such as US sanctions against Russia and disarmament, especially of intermediate nuclear weapons, Putin believes they have common ground in Syria, which can be expanded, thereby bolstering Russian military ascendancy in that country, to which he attributes supreme importance.
  3. The Russian leader is convinced that his close ties with Netanyahu will help him promote his case in Washington.

In recent weeks, our sources report that Russian forces, under orders from the president, have been pushing Iranian Al Qods Brigades and pro-Iranian Shiite militias out of bases within a m 80km radius from the Israeli border. Putin is therefore finally making good on the pledge he gave Trump at Helsinki in July 2018 to remove the Iranian military presence in Syria to that line.

He procrastinated on that pledge for 14 months for two reasons:

  • Defense ministry circles in Moscow and the upper echelons of the Russian contingents in Syria disagreed with this course and evaded his order on various pretexts. Putin decided against imposing his will in this internal dispute.
  • Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and sections of the ministry staff were strongly against going against Tehran in the Syrian arena.

However, in recent weeks, the Russian president has taken up the cudgels and is forcing his will on the dissenters in the defense and foreign ministries, and keeping them under his eye.

Our intelligence sources disclose that all Iranian requests to the Russian command for permission to move soldiers into bases inside the 80-km adjacent to the Israel border were rebuffed.  The Russian officers also cancelled meetings with their Iranian counterparts to discuss the deployment of Iranian forces and proxies at the new air and naval bases going up in Syria.

These steps provided the context for Shoigu’s announcement on Sept. 3 that the Russian air and naval bases at Khmeimim in Latakia and the port of Tartous were to be upgraded since, “The tasks of protecting, preserving and maintaining the combat readiness of weapons and special equipment of the Russian military contingent [in Syria} are now in the forefront.” In other words, the Russian army was the dominant military power in Syria and Iran could forget about its longstanding hope of gaining a preeminent foothold.

Putin’s affection for Netanyahu and Israel’s special standing in the Kremlin were amply manifested by his willingness for them to spend three hours together with their aides in studying the map of Iranian locations and reaching agreements on which bases would stay, which would go and what weapons the Iranians would be allowed to deploy.

 

NETANYAHU: WE WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT START MILITARY CAMPAIGN IN GAZA

Posted September 12, 2019 by Peter Hofman
Categories: Uncategorized

On tarmac before heading to Russia PM said the goal of trip is to maintain Israeli freedom of action in Syria

BY ROSSELLA TERCATIN, ANNA AHRONHEIM  SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 14:17 3 minute read.  

Netanyahu: We will have no choice but start military campaign in Gaza

IDF tanks gather near the Gaza border. (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Thursday that Israel may have no choice but to embark on a military operation in Gaza to overthrow Hamas.

“It looks like there will be no other choice but to embark on a wide scale campaign in Gaza,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Kan Reshet Bet Radio shortly before he boarded a flight to Moscow where he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.“There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime. Hamas doesn’t exert its sovereignty in the Strip and doesn’t prevent attacks,” he said. “We have a situation in which a terror group that launches rockets has taken over, and doesn’t rein in rogue factions even when it wants to.”

Netanyahu’s comments also came two days after a campaign rally in the southern city of Ashdod was interrupted by incoming rocket sirens after rockets were fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The prime minister said he wasn’t fazed by the rocket alert sirens when he was taken to safety by his security guards and that it was “absurd” if he remained on stage.

“I was calm and collected, I spoke quietly to the people in the audience and told them to evacuate,” Netanyahu said. “I wouldn’t stand there like some kind of macho, telling everyone to stand still with me so we can all get hit by a missile. I acted in accordance with the Shin Bet protocol, that’s what you should do in these situations … anyone who tells you otherwise is being irresponsible,”

In the interview, Netanyahu criticized his own ministers who have been calling for the IDF to attack Hamas.

“Stop agitating for an operation in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “There will be an operation but I will not embark on it a moment before we are ready. I don’t base my policy on tweets.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigor Liberman tweeted in response to Netanyahu’s comments, saying that  “Bibi will go to an operation in Gaza after he annexes the Jordan Valley and Elkana, and he will do all of this only after his next meeting with Boris Yeltsin, of blessed memory.”

Liberman’s tweet referred to Netanyahu calling Britain’s prime minister Boris Yeltsin in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

On the tarmac before boarding the plane to Moscow Netanyahu said that the goal of his trip to Russia is to maintain Israel freedom of action in Syria.

“This is a very important trip. We are currently operating in several arenas, at 360 degrees, to ensure Israel’s security, in the face of attempts by Iran and its proxies to attack us,” he said.

“This trip aims to continue this important coordination that prevents our collision with the Russian forces,” Netanyahu said, adding that the ultimate goal in Syria is to force Iran out of Syria, a goal that “is far from being achieved.”

Emphasizing the importance of the operations in Syria and highlighting how crucial the coordination with Russia is in this perspective, the prime minister said it “is important for us to continue to maintain the IDF and IAF’s freedom of action against Iranian, Hezbollah and other terrorist targets.”

Speaking to Russian media ahead of his visit, Netanyahu said that through talks between him and Putin “we were able to avert a near-unavoidable crash between the Russian Air Force and our own forces during an operation in Syria.”

When asked about the relationship between Tehran and Moscow, he claimed “I don’t think Russia and Iran are getting closer, quite the opposite in fact, I see many situations in which [Russians] and Iranians have different interests.”

On Wednesday, Moscow condemned Netanyahu’s intention to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins next week’s election, warning that this could lead to an “escalation” in the region.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Moscow believes implementation of the plan “could lead to a sharp escalation of tension in the region and undermine hopes for the establishment of a long-awaited peace between Israel and the Arab neighbors.”

Trump mulls $15b bailout plan for Iran if complies with nuclear deal – report

Posted September 12, 2019 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Trump mulls $15b bailout plan for Iran if complies with nuclear deal – report | The Times of Israel

US president said to be considering French proposal for line of credit guaranteed by future oil sales

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on September 11, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on September 11, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

US President Donald Trump is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion line of credit to Iran in return for the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday.

Four sources with knowledge of the US president’s conversations with French President Emmanuel Macron told the news outlet that Trump “has in recent weeks shown openness to entertaining” the proposal.

According to a New York Times report earlier this month, which cited a US official and Iranian reports, the proposed sum is aimed at salvaging the accord after Trump withdrew from the pact last year and reimposed biting sanctions on Iran, including on its oil sector.

The $15 billion package would make up for about half of Iran’s annual oil sales, the report said, and ease some of the economic pressure on it.

The credit line would be guaranteed by future crude sales and the Trump administration would issue waivers on sanctions, the Daily Beast reported. Spokespeople for the State Department, White House, and Treasury did not comment on the story.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Ludovic Marin)

Such a step would likely be vociferously opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who lobbied against the Iran deal and pushed for punishing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has had a series of phone calls with Macron in recent weeks aimed at retaining the nuclear deal. The French leader has been trying to convince the United States to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions.

Trump on Wednesday warned Iran against further uranium enrichment but left open the possibility the US could lift sanctions to pave the way to a meeting with Rouhani.

Asked if he would ease crippling sanctions to help bring about a meeting with the Iranian leader, Trump replied “we will see what happens,” while warning it would be “very, very dangerous” for Iran to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles.

Trump said he believes Iran would like to make a deal because “they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.”

“We cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon, and they never will have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If they are thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it. Because it’s going to be very dangerous for them to enrich. Very, very dangerous, okay?”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks at parliament in the capital Tehran on September 3, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Rouhani has dismissed meeting with Trump, insisting that Washington must lift the sanctions it has imposed on Iran.

“The Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favor. Both… must be abandoned,” Rouhani told his cabinet earlier Wednesday.

“The enemy imposed ‘maximum pressure’ on us. Our response is to resist and confront this,” he said, referring to the US sanctions.

Trump has used sanctions to step up pressure on Tehran since he pulled the United States out of a 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions.

But speaking the day after he fired John Bolton, an architect of the “maximum pressure” strategy, Trump said his administration was dealing with both Iran and North Korea “at a very high level.”

National security adviser John Bolton speaks to reporters during the daily press briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, November 27, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

“I think Iran has a tremendous potential. They are incredible people. We are not looking for regime change. We hope that we can make a deal. If we can’t make a deal, that’s fine, too.”

According to a Wednesday report in Bloomberg News, Trump on Monday discussed the possibility of easing sanctions to woo Rouhani toward a possible meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.

Bolton’s firing came after he protested the idea, according to the report.

The White House on Tuesday said Trump was willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions while maintaining its campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran.

US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after their joint press conference at the G7 summit on August 26, 2019 in Biarritz, southwestern France. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Rouhani has had a series of phone conversations in recent weeks with Macron.

The French leader has been spearheading European efforts to salvage the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

The deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been at risk of falling apart since Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

“As Iran’s government, parliament and people see it, negotiating with the United States is meaningless as long as sanctions are in place,” Rouhani told Macron, according to the government’s website.

“If agreements with Europe are finalized, we’re ready to return to JCPOA commitments, and a meeting between Iran and the 5+1 is only possible when sanctions are lifted,” he added.

The nuclear deal was struck in 2015 between Iran and six major powers — the UN Security Council’s permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, plus Germany.

Twelve months on from the US pullout, Iran began taking steps back from the deal.

It has since increased its enriched uranium stockpile to beyond the deal’s 300-kilogram threshold and boosted its purity above the 3.67-percent limit as well as firing up advanced centrifuges.

Despite the rollback, Rouhani said last week that Tehran and the European powers had been getting closer to an agreement on a way to resolve key issues.

In this frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP)

On Wednesday, he told Macron that the steps Iran has taken so far in reducing its commitments were reversible.

“Iran’s third step is under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency and also has the potential to be reversed,” he said.