US President Donald Trump has told his top advisers that he does not want to get the United States involved in a war with Iran, Reuters reports, citing unidentified US officials.
“He doesn’t want to go to war. It’s not who he is,” a source was quoted as saying.
Trump has communicated to his national security team and other aides that he wants to keep tensions with Tehran from boiling over into an armed conflict, officials told Reuters.
But he has also made clear that he will protect US interests in the region, one official said. US intelligence showed heightened activity by Iran or its proxies that American officials took as a threat against American targets in the region.
Trump won the 2016 election in part by promising to stay out of conflicts abroad after what he viewed as costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier this year he ordered US troops out of Syria but was persuaded to leave some in.
Trump told reporters on Thursday that he hoped the US was not heading to war with Iran. “Hope not,” Trump said when asked by reporters if Washington was going to war with Tehran.
He made the comments as he met with Switzerland President Ueli Maurer, whose nation has served as a liaison conduit between the US and Iran since the nations do not have diplomatic relations.
Tensions have escalated in recent days with increasing concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the US pulled some diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad following weekend attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.
“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership. However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we will protect US personnel and interests in the region,” said Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Trump has said publicly he wants to pursue a diplomatic route with Iran a year after withdrawing the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
He has said privately that he was worried that some of his advisers, such as White House national security adviser John Bolton, were pushing for war, two officials said.
The Pentagon has prepared options for potentially sending US troops to the region if needed ranging from a relatively small number of troops up to 120,000, although officials stressed these are the types of options that are always considered for hot zones.
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