WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday pledged to hit Iran with "major" new sanctions as Tehran warned Washington that any attack would see its interests across the Middle East go up in flames. The war of words heated up after Trump had pulled back from military action against Iran in response to its downing of a U.S. reconnaissance drone. That incident, which came after a series of attacks on tankers in the congested shipping lanes out of the Persian Gulf that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, exacerbated already tense relations between the two countries. Iran has denied responsibility for those attacks. Trump, who spent Saturday huddling with his advisors at Camp David, initially told reporters that he was keen to be Iran's "best friend" -- if the country agreed to renounce nuclear weapons.
TEHRAN - Iran said Tuesday it will further free itself from the 2015 nuclear deal in defiance of new American sanctions as U.S. President Donald Trump warned the Islamic republic of "overwhelming" retaliation for any attacks. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have spiraled since last year when Trump withdrew the United States from the deal under which Tehran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The two arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words since Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in what it said was its own airspace, a claim the US vehemently denies. On Monday, Washington stepped up pressure by blacklisting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week. Tehran was defiant on Tuesday, saying the new US sanctions against Iran showed Washington was "lying" about an offer of talks.
WASHINGTON/DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. President Donald Trump played down Iran's downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone on Thursday, saying he suspected it was shot by mistake and "it would have made a big difference" to him had the remotely controlled aircraft been piloted. While the comments appeared to suggest Trump was not eager to escalate the latest in a series of incidents with Iran, he also warned: "This country will not stand for it." Tehran said the unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drone was on a spy mission over its territory, but Washington said it was shot down over international airspace. "I think probably Iran made a mistake -- I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference" if the aircraft had been piloted, Trump said as he met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office.
TEHRAN - Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant "closing the doors of diplomacy" between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being "afflicted by mental retardation." President Donald Trump called that a "very ignorant and insulting statement," tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with "great and overwhelming force … overwhelming will mean obliteration." His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was "immature." The sharp remarks from Tehran shows the pressure that the nation's Shiite theocracy and its 80 million people feel over the maximalist campaign of sanctions by the Trump administration. From Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an "open door" to talks with America but also warned that "all options remain on the table" if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking one limit from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
WASHINGTON - The United States imposed sanctions Monday on Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a string of military chiefs, tightening pressure on the country that President Donald Trump threatened with "obliteration" if it seeks war. Trump signed the punitive financial measures in the Oval Office, calling this a "strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions." Repeating that "never can Iran have a nuclear weapon," Trump said it was now up to Tehran to negotiate. "We do not ask for conflict," he said, adding that depending on Iran's response the sanctions could end tomorrow -- or it "can also be years from now." Expanding on the new measures, the Treasury said the United States will blacklist Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and block "billions" more in Iranian assets, with eight top commanders from Iran's Revolutionary Guards already added to the list. Tensions are running high after Iran shot down a U.S. spy drone last week and Trump considered, then canceled, a retaliatory strike.