WASHINGTON. In recent days, President Trump has tried to slow down the impending confrontation with Iran by telling acting defense Minister Patrick Shanahan that he doesn’t want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began Looking for ways to defuse tensions.
Mr. Trump’s statement during Wednesday morning’s meeting in the Situation room sent a message to his assistant hawks that he did not want the growing campaign of American pressure against the Iranians to escalate into open conflict.
At this point, the administration, which seems to be preparing for conflict, seems more determined to find a diplomatic exception.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo called on Oman’s leader Sultan Qaboos bin said on Wednesday to report on the threat coming from Iran, the statement said. As a mediator between the West and Iran, Oman was the site of a secret channel in 2013, when the Obama administration negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Mr. Pompeo also asked European officials to help persuade Iran to “reduce the escalation” of tensions, which increased after us intelligence indicated that Iran had placed missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf. Intelligence, based on photographs that were not made public but were described by The New York Times, raised concerns that Tehran might strike at United States troops and assets or their allies.
When asked on Thursday whether the United States is going to wage war with Iran, Mr. Trump said, “I hope not.”
These events dramatically ease the situation of the President, who instinctively fears military adventures, as well as advisers – led by national security adviser John R. Bolton – who have gone to an uncompromising line against Iran. Internal tensions have raised concerns that the trump administration is spoiling the fight, even if the commander-in-chief can’t be.
These units are playing a fierce internal debate between the administration about the seriousness of the Iranian threat. While officials and British allies say the information about the threat is correct, lawmakers and some members of the administration accuse trump’s aides of exaggerating the danger and using intelligence to justify a military clash with Tehran.
The administration’s internal debate on Iran was described by five senior officials who demanded anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions.
Iran has rejected any proposals for dialogue with Mr. Trump. “The escalation by the US is unacceptable,” said Thursday the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Indeed, in Iran’s standoff with the United States, a new potential flashpoint has emerged, stemming from its vow last week to move away from some of the restrictions imposed by the nuclear deal, a year after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement that was concluded between Tehran and the world powers in 2015.
Representatives of the state Department, referring to journalists, set a red line, which they warned that Iran will step at your own risk: it will not be able to increase the production of nuclear fuel to a level where it can produce nuclear weapons in less than one year.
Officials did not specify what reaction – military or otherwise – would be if Iran accumulated enough uranium reserves and took other steps to overcome this threshold. But they recognized that the steps announced by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could ultimately give Tehran such an opportunity.
According to one of those present, no new information was presented to Mr. Trump at the meeting of the “Situation Room”, which argued for further interaction with Iran.
Mr. Shanahan and General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, presented the President with a number of military options and noted the size, cost, and risks of each, one official said.
However, Mr. trump firmly stated that he did not want a military clash with the Iranians, several officials said.
The President sought to mitigate reports of disagreements between Mr. Bolton, Mr. Pompeo, and the Pentagon. Military officials warn against escalating the standoff, even when Mr. Bolton ordered the Pentagon to present options for sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in response to Iranian provocations.
“There is no quarrel,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday on Twitter. “There are different opinions, and I make a decisive and final decision – it is a very simple process. All parties, views and policies are covered.”
Mr. Trump added that he was sure Iran would “want to talk soon,” though one senior official said the White House is unlikely to use a secret diplomatic channel to negotiate with Iran, as the Obama administration did.
Mr. Pompeo outlined the 12 steps Iran must take to satisfy the United States, including ending all ballistic missile tests and ending support for militant groups in Syria and Yemen that Pentagon critics believe are unrealistic and could support Iranian leaders in the corner. Recently, he called the American policy designed to cause internal political unrest in Iran.
But despite all his harsh words about Tehran, some officials said that Mr. Pompeo was struck by being associated with Mr. Bolton, who is prone to war. Mr. Pompeo, a former Republican MP, is an astute reader of Mr. trump’s preferences and will dive into diplomacy if necessary, as is the case with North Korea.
Mr. Bolton, as an individual, has long called for regime change in Tehran. He resisted compromises that would open the door to negotiations, provided the national security Council with Iran’s compromises, and led recent political changes to tighten economic and political views on the clerical government in Tehran.
Three officials said that Mr. Trump is not so upset with Mr. Bolton over his treatment of Iran – he prefers tougher measures as a warning to Tehran than because of the evolving narrative that his national security adviser is leading the administration’s policy in the Middle East.