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Trump Says U.S. Will Use ‘Overwhelming Force’ If Iran Attacks

Joshua Gallu and Ladane Nasseri
Trump Says U.S. Will Use ‘Overwhelming Force’ If Iran Attacks

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump threatened Iran with forceful retaliation for any attack on the U.S. after the Islamic Republic ruled out talks to resolve escalating tensions between the two nations.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force,” Trump said Tuesday in a tweet. “In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

Iran earlier said the path to a diplomatic solution with the U.S. had closed after the Trump administration imposed sanctions against its supreme leader and other top officials, raising tensions days after the downing of an American drone brought the Middle East to the brink of war.

Trump’s comments came after some news outlets reported that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that the Trump administration suffered from “mental retardation.” A more precise translation from Farsi, however, would be: “The Americans have become confused and they do strange things. Things that no wise person in the history of politics has done. The White House has a mental disorder.”

Trump’s tweet in response: “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality.”

Trump last week abruptly canceled planned airstrikes against Iran for shooting down the drone. The administration also blames Tehran for recent attacks on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf, which Iran denies.

“I hope they understood the message,” Trump told reporters later Tuesday at the White House. “I decided not to strike -- they shot down an unmanned drone.”

Tensions have spiked in the Gulf since May, when the Trump administration revoked waivers on the import of Iranian oil, squeezing its economy a year after the U.S. walked away from the landmark 2015 deal meant to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon. Since then, a spate of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping chokepoint, has raised the specter of war and pushed up oil prices.

‘Futile Actions’

“The futile sanctions against the Iranian leader and the country’s chief diplomat mean the permanent closure of the diplomatic path with the government of the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency. “The Trump government is in the process of destroying all the established international mechanisms for maintaining global peace and security.”

The new penalties are unlikely to have a significant impact on a country that’s already in recession due to stringent U.S. sanctions on its oil sector and has been largely shut out of the global financial system. The U.S. has sanctioned more than 80% of Iran’s economy, according to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who was in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week to rally a front against Iran.

The targeting of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for U.S. sanctions on Monday shocked some Iranians because he’s considered a spiritual guide and a holy man by his most devoted followers.

Trump has coupled his “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions with invitations to sit down with Iranian leaders. In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the president said that he thinks Iranian leaders want to negotiate and he’s willing to talk with no preconditions except that the outcome must be Iran acquiring no nuclear weapons.

His national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Tuesday that Iran had an “open door” to negotiations on a revised nuclear deal as he met Israeli and Russian officials for talks on the Iranian presence in Syria. But he said that any talks would have to “completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missiles delivery systems, its support for international terrorism, and its other malign behavior worldwide.”

(Updates with Trump comment in seventh paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Joshua Gallu in Washington at jgallu@bloomberg.net;Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua Gallu, Larry Liebert

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