President Trump on Monday said the United States does not “seek” a conflict with Iran, but warned Tehran his recent restraint is not guaranteed to continue as he prepared to slap new sanctions on the Middle East power.
“We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country,” Trump told reporters at the White House, according to a pool report.
But he also again warned the Islamic republic to cease any efforts to field an atomic arsenal.
“I can only tell you we cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said.
On Monday at about noon, Trump summoned a group of reporters to the Oval Office to sign an executive order putting new sanctions in place. He said they are intended to deny top Iranian leaders access to some financial tools.
Trump signed the order during an unplanned event with the day’s press pool.
The commander in chief’s latest warning comes less than a week after Iran shot down an American military surveillance drone aircraft. The Iranian action prompted him to initially green light a U.S. military retaliation mission before canceling it Thursday evening — just minutes before strikes were scheduled.
“I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us,” he said in the Oval Office. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future.”
The Trump administration has steadily ratcheted up sanctions on Iran after pulling out of a nuclear accord negotiated with Tehran by the Obama administration and other world powers as part of its so-called “maximum pressure” campaign.
Some Democratic members and experts, however, say the sanctions have so hobbled Iran’s economy — they have largely targeted its energy and shipping sectors — that leaders there feel compelled to take aggressive actions like the drone shootdown to show their people they are standing up to Trump.
The president has said he wants to personally negotiate a new deal that would cover Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its activities in the region, which the White House Call’s destabilizing.
Trump signed the order imposing the new sanctions during an unplanned event with the day’s press pool. It coincided with the White House being locked down due to a suspicious package in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement vehicles swarmed the scene, investigating the package. The lockdown was lifted at about 12:30 p.m., roughly an hour after it began.
No further information was made available about the package or its contents.