White House national Security Advisor John Bolton listens as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2018.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump is not comfortable with the aggressive approach that some of his top advisers have recently taken towards Iran because he fears it could lead to an unwanted war, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
A number of senior officials told the D.C based newspaper that Trump is frustrated with what he sees as war-like planning, an approach that contradicts his commitment to avoid costly conflicts on foreign soil.
“They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,” an official told The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, referring to the feelings the president harbors towards national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.”
In the past year, the US pullout from the nuclear deal has escalated regional tensions, and in the past days a number of events and intelligence reports have further exacerbated the situation: Namely an attack on four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, for which no one has claimed responsibility; concerns over threats against US facilities by Iran-backed forces in Iraq; short-range ballistic missiles boarded on boats in the Gulf; and a directive from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Among the measures taken to counter the threats, the Trump administration sent to the Middle East an aircraft carrier group, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, as reported by Reuters.
The hard line against Iran has been one of the distinctive traits of the current American administration. In the conversation with The Washington Post the official noted that the president would still be willing to respond forcefully if Iran made a “big move.”
However, according to the report, the US president thinks that a diplomatic solution should be pursued first, including direct negotiations with Iranian leaders, and he is unhappy with Bolton’s aggressive approach and “regime change” talk.
In a tweet Trump denied any infighting within the administration.
“The Fake News Washington Post, and even more Fake News New York Times, are writing stories that there is infighting with respect to my strong policy in the Middle East. There is no infighting whatsoever....,” he wrote.
“...Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision - it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” he added in a second tweet.
When asked by the Washington Post, also National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said that "the reporting doesn’t accurately reflect reality.”
According to Reuters, growing US pressure on Iran has weakened current President Hassan Rouhani and made his hardline rivals more aggressive.
On Wednesday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released a statement claiming that Iran was now working at maximum capacity in preparation for a “full confrontation” with its "enemy."
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country is exercising "maximum restraint” in spite of the US pullout from the deal, Reuters reported.