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Pompeo Says U.S. Working on Diplomacy After Iran ‘War’ Act

Mark Niquette

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. is “working diligently” toward a diplomatic resolution with Iran after accusing the Islamic republic of attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields, but that President Donald Trump is prepared to take other action if necessary.

“Make no mistake about it, if we’re unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, one of multiple TV appearances ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

Top Pentagon officials on Friday said the U.S. will send a “moderate” number of troops to the Middle East and additional missile defense capabilities to Saudi Arabia in response to last weekend’s attack on oil facilities, which disrupted about 5% of global oil production.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif refused to rule out military conflict in the Middle East, saying in an interview Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “I’m not confident that we can avoid a war.”

Asked whether he’s confident of avoiding a war, Pompeo said, “we’re working towards that.” In a interview airing on CBS, Pompeo said the U.S. will respond in a way that reflects what he called “an attack by Iran on the world” and a “state-on-state act of war.” He said the U.S. is looking for a diplomatic resolution, while “apparently the Iranians are blood-thirsty and looking for war.”

Pompeo said the U.S. maximum-pressure campaign, which includes sanctions on Iran’s central bank and sovereign-wealth fund, is working and that the Iranian economy will shrink by about 10% to 15% this year.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said there’s still room for more sanctions.

“Although we’re pretty much maxed out on Iran, we will begin to sanction third-party entities where we see violations,” he said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that economic sanctions aren’t enough because Iranians “would eat grass if that’s what it took” and that military action is also needed. He suggested targeting Iran’s oil refineries and that Iran knows it would never win a war with the U.S.

“I don’t want a war with Iran, but I want them to stop, and the only way they’re going to stop is to pay a price,” Graham said. “And the price I want them to pay is to lose some of their military capability.”

(Updates with Graham comments from ninth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Laura Litvan, Tony Capaccio, Glen Carey and Saleha Mohsin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Steve Geimann

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