Donald Trump has said he is not seeking war with Tehran and indicated he was ready to defuse tensions by reaching a deal to bolster Iran’s flagging economy.
While the US president said he will impose further sanctions on Monday aimed at stopping the country from obtaining nuclear weapons, he left the door open to negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement.
The overtures from the White House came as it was confirmed the US had launched a cyberattack against Iranian military computer systems, and as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said he was travelling to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to “ensure we’re strategically aligned” with allies.
Mr Trump earlier said he pulled out of airstrikes in retaliation for Iran’s downing of an unmanned US drone because it would have killed 150 people.
The cyberattacks – planned by the US Cyber Command over weeks during escalating tensions between the two countries – disabled Iranian intelligence systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, officials said.
Tensions between the two countries have risen since the US pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal last year between Iran and world powers and reinstated sanctions.
Mr Trump said military action was “always on the table” against Iran following recent events, but indicated he was open to deescalating the situation and reach a deal.
“We will call it ‘let’s make Iran great again’,” Mr Trump said.
“I’m not looking for war,” he added.
“I think they want to negotiate. And I think they want to make a deal.
“I don’t think they like the position they’re in. Their economy is, is absolutely broken.”
Meanwhile, US national security adviser John Bolton said Iran should not “mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness”.
He emphasised that Washington reserved the right to attack at a later point.
Speaking in Jerusalem, Mr Bolton said: “No one has granted them a hunting licence in the Middle East. As President Trump said on Friday our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go.”
Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons! Under the terrible Obama plan, they would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years, and existing verification is not acceptable. We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the downed US drone had violated his country’s airspace and that “this American aggression is the start of new tensions by them in the region”.
The UK’s Middle East and North Africa minister, Dr Andrew Murrison, who has been meeting with senior politicians in Tehran, said activity which “carries a high risk of miscalculation” needed to stop to “allow for immediate de-escalation of rising tensions”.
He had been referring to attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which he said Iran “almost certainly bears responsibility for”.
In a statement, he added: “I was clear that the UK will continue to play its full part alongside international partners to find diplomatic solutions to reduce the current tensions.”