WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump in an interview that aired Sunday said he is “not looking for war,” but warned Iran “if there is, it’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before,” as the United States prepares to impose a new round of economic sanctions in response to an Iranian missile strike against an American military drone last week.
“I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before,” Trump told NBC's “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd when asked in the interview taped Friday what message he wanted to deliver to Iranian leaders. “But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon. You want to talk? Good. Otherwise you can have a bad economy.”
Vice President Mike Pence, making the Sunday political talk show rounds, announced the Trump administration on Monday will roll out a new block of sanctions against Iran in response to the downed drone. The news came as Trump wrapped up a meeting with his top national security advisers at Camp David on Sunday, before heading to his namesake golf course in Northern Virginia.
Both Pence, on TV, and National Security Adviser John Bolton, in a speech delivered while visiting Israel, defended Trump’s decision to abort a retaliatory airstrike over Iran last week after Trump cited concerns over the number of expected Iranian casualties. Both leaders said Iran should not interpret Trump’s decision as a sign of weakness.
“Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve,” Pence said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “This president's made it clear we are going to protect American forces in the region. We're going to protect American interests in the region and the United States of America will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
Bolton, appearing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, said: "Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness. No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who in the past has described the Trump administration's aggressive economic sanctions as “economic terrorism,” responded to Bolton’s remarks via tweet, saying: “Prudence prevented it, but #EconomicTerrorism brings tension.”
Zarif, on Twitter accused Bolton, Netanyahu and Saudi leaders, of being “moments away from trapping @realDonaldTrump into a war.”
Trump on “Meet the Press” said Bolton, who has publicly called for regime change in Tehran, was “absolutely a hawk,” but said there were also members of Trump’s team of advisers who were “doves.”
“Yeah, John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him, he'd take on the whole world at one time … but that doesn't matter because I want both sides,” Trump said.