Trump says he has no 'exit strategy' if US goes to war with Iran

Tehran says US sanctions 'mentally retarded' and mark end of diplomacy

Andrew Buncombe
Tuesday 25 June 2019 22:34
Donald Trump says US 'won't need an exit strategy' in war with Iran

Donald Trump has claimed he has no “exit strategy” if the US goes to war with Iran, the latest sabre-rattling from the US president as tensions between the two countries continues to grow.

On a day that saw Mr Trump threaten to obliterate Iran if it attacked any US assets, and Tehran vowed to respond if another US drone were to breach its airspace, the president nevertheless left open the door for talks. He said Iran should inform the US when it was ready to negotiate.

At the same time, he also suggested that military conflict between the two countries was a genuine possibility.

Asked in the White House – where he was signing an unrelated executive order – if he had an “exit strategy” if the US were to go to war with Iran, he said: “You’re not going to need an exit strategy. I don’t do exit strategies.”

At another photo opportunity with the media, the president was asked what message he had for Iran’s leaders.

“I’ll tell you what the message is: when they’re ready, let us know,” he said. Asked if he meant when Iran was ready to negotiate, he added: “Ready to do whatever. Doesn’t make a difference. Whatever they want to do, I’m ready.”

The president had started the day with stern threats, delivered on Twitter. Responding to headlines from Iran that said it considered new US sanctions imposed on Monday against the nation’s supreme leader “closing the door of diplomacy”, Mr Trump said Iran’s comments were “ignorant and insulting”.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force,” he wrote. “In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!”

In Iran, president Hassan Rouhani said the sanctions signed by Mr Trump a day earlier, largely symbolic and targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showed the US was “afflicted by mental retardation”.

“Tehran’s strategic patience does not mean we have fear,” said Mr Rouhani, who runs Iran’s day-to-day affairs while Mr Khamenei is the country’s ultimate authority.

John Oliver blasts Fox News about Iran war comments

Relations between Iran and the US have worsened since Mr Trump last year withdrew Washington from the multi-party Iran Nuclear Deal, that was designed to monitor Tehran’s nuclear industry, while readmitting it to international markets and lifting sanctions.

But when Mr Trump went ahead and unilaterally pulled the US out, something he had vowed to do during the 2016 presidential campaign, he also reimposed a series of stringent sanctions that have targeted Iran’s oil industry and make it difficult for it to trade with other nations.

This, coupled with a propaganda campaign the US launched last year, has had a deeply damaging, but not yet fatal, impact on the nation’s economy. As recently as April of last year, Iran was exporting more than 2.5 million barrels per day of crude oil; this month, the figure has fallen to just 300,000.

Earlier this month, Iran said it was preparing to breach the limit for uranium production agreed as part of the deal signed in 2015, an apparent attempt to try and lever the EU and other signatories to help it counter the impact of US sanctions.

Tensions soared when Iran last week shot down a US drone it claimed was in Iranian airspace, and Mr Trump said he had called off a retaliatory airstrike with minutes to spare as he did not want to kill the 150 people estimated to lose their lives as a result.

The US has insisted the drone was in international airspace, while Iran has produced the coordinates it claims proves it had crossed the line.

In a telephone conversation on Tuesday with French president Emmanuel Macron, Mr Rouhani said Iran was not looking for war. However, he said if the US again violated Iranian airspace Iran would defend itself.

“If the Americans want to violate the waters or airspace of Iran again, Iran’s armed forces have a duty to confront them and they will have a decisive clash,” Mr Rouhani said, according to Iranian media.

During a visit to Israel, Mr Trump’s hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, said the US was prepared to hold talks if Iran was ready to go beyond the terms of the deal signed in 2015, something most observers believe unlikely to happen.

“The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide,” Mr Bolton said. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

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