- President Donald Trump has told Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran, according to a report in The New York Times on Thursday.
- In the past two weeks there has been a sharp escalation of tensions between the US and Iran, with the US deploying an aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf and evacuating personnel from its embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, have reportedly pushed for aggressive confrontation with Iran, to the president’s ire.
- In a tweet Wednesday, Trump hinted at the possibility of diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the US.
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Amid a sharp escalation of tensions between the US and Iran, President Donald Trump has reportedly told Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want to go to war.
The New York Times on Thursday reported that Trump directly expressed the wish to Shanahan on Wednesday during a Situation Room briefing on the status of US forces in the Middle East.
When asked by a reporter Thursday whether the US was going to war with Iran, Trump relied “I hope not.”
Last week the US sent an aircraft carrier and fleet of bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to what the US said were signs that Iran could be preparing to attack US forces in the region.
The Pentagon has reportedly presented Trump with an updated plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack US forces or relaunch its bid to build a nuclear weapon.
But the situation has opened a rift in the administration, according to sources cited by The Washington Post, with Trump reportedly irate that his hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, could place the US on the path to a military confrontation with Iran.
On Thursday, three officials told The Times that photographs showing Iranian paramilitaries loading missiles onto boats were behind the decision by the US to strengthen its military presence in the Gulf, but according to the report other administration officials believe that Iran could be deploying its forces as a defensive measure in response to perceived provocations by the US.
Allies of the US have also pushed back against claims of an escalating threat from Iran, with British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, second in command of the coalition forces fighting the Islamic State, having said there is no heightened threat from Iran-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.
Trump reportedly wants a diplomatic route out of the confrontation, having campaigned in 2016 to keep the US out of costly wars abroad.
In a tweet Thursday, the president raised the possibility of negotiations with Iran and berated the news media over reports of disagreements within his administration over Iran.
“The Fake News Washington Post, and even more Fake News New York Times, are writing stories that there is infighting with respect to my strong policy in the Middle East. There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump tweeted.
“Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision – it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”
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