President Donald Trump on Friday rejected Iran’s denials that it was behind a pair of explosions on oil tankers the day before.
And though he said he’s “in no rush” to get Iran back to the negotiating table, the president warned of recent provocations in the Middle East that the U.S. blamed on Tehran, “We don’t take it lightly.”
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Trump spoke at length about his administration’s escalating tensions with Iran during a wide-ranging 50-minute interview on “Fox & Friends,” and offered his first extended comments about two apparent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the president said Iran is responsible for.
Overnight, the Pentagon released video they said shows members of the Iranian military removing what appears to be an unexploded mine from the hulls of one of the attacked ships. Earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that U.S. intelligence had concluded Iran was responsible, an assertion Trump reiterated Friday.
“Well, Iran did do it. You know they did it, because you saw the boat, I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got, essentially, Iran written all over it,” he said. “And you saw the boat at night trying to take the mine off, and successfully took the mine off the boat and that was exposed. And that was their boat, that was them. And they didn’t want the evidence left behind.”
While Trump added that Iran must not have known the U.S. has nighttime surveillance capabilities, a timeline from U.S. Central Command accompanying the video’s release indicates the apparent mine removal happened in broad daylight, which would make the operation even more brazen.
The president also insisted that current spats with Iran aside, “I don’t think they’ve talked the same way” during his presidency as they did during former President Barack Obama’s, during which both countries were a part of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump’s administration has reimposed punishing sanctions on Tehran since withdrawing from the pact last year, but officials have warned in recent weeks of intelligence they say shows Iran is readying an attack on U.S. forces in the region.
“They haven’t screamed death to America lately,” Trump claimed Friday, referencing the anti-American rallying cry. “We don’t take it lightly.”
Still, despite the saber-rattling coming from Iran hawks in the White House, Trump appeared prepared to wait out Iran’s outbursts. He asserted that if Iran attempted to choke off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where Thursday’s explosions took place, “it’s not going to be closed for long and they know it.”
“They’ve been told in strong terms, we want to get them back to the table if they want to go back,” he continued. “I’m ready when they are. Whenever they’re ready, I’m OK. In the meantime, I’m in no rush.”
Trump also responded with a bit of levity to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s declaration that Trump’s offers for peace talks were unworthy of a response.
“I’m glad he likes me so much. He has every reason not to like me,” he joked, launching into a summary of what he argued his maximum pressure campaign had accomplished.
“They’ve changed a lot since I’ve been president, I can tell you. They were unstoppable and now they are in deep, deep trouble,” he argued.