June 27, 2019 | From the Wall Street Journal
President Trump and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran shifted back to a sharply confrontational footing on Tuesday, trading accusations while U.S. officials and international leaders worked toward expected talks aimed at defusing the conflict at a global summit at the end of the week.
Mr. Rouhani denounced new U.S. sanctions targeting the assets of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and several top military commanders, calling them “outrageous and stupid” and saying the move closed the door on diplomacy and threatened global stability.
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In return, Mr. Trump threatened a heavy military response in the event of an Iranian attack. “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”
Later, speaking at the White House, Mr. Trump said his threatening tweet wasn’t meant to mean an end to the possibility of diplomacy.
“There is no message,” he said. . . .
The abrupt shift by Mr. Trump, from conciliation to confrontation, came as his administration has sought on a daily basis to pressure Iran to accede to U.S. demands to indefinitely forswear a weapons-capable nuclear program and to extinguish its support for militant movements across the Middle East. Iran has vowed to resist both demands, especially in the face of the maximum pressure tactics employed by Washington.
Despite the resumption of harsh language on Tuesday, there were signs on both sides of diplomatic efforts under way in advance of a summit of leaders from the Group of 20 leading nations in Osaka, Japan, on Friday and Saturday. . . .
Iran maintains the Trump administration began the current conflict by dropping out of a 2015 international nuclear agreement—which promised Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for agreeing to limits on its nuclear program—and by reimposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
The Trump administration insists that the agreement allowed Iran to develop ballistic missiles and support militant movements throughout the Middle East, and that the U.S. abandoned the deal and reimposed sanctions in a bid to negotiate a new agreement.
White House national security adviser John Bolton, in Jerusalem for a rare gathering of his Israeli and Russian counterparts, called on Iran to negotiate a new, broader agreement to supersede the 2015 nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from in May 2018.
“The president has held the door open to real negotiations that completely and verifiably end Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic-missile delivery systems and support for international terrorism, and its other malign behavior world-wide. All that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door,” he said.
He rejected Iranian demands that sanctions be lifted as a condition of talks, saying Tehran would “either get the point” from current restrictions or “we will simply enhance the maximum pressure campaign further.” (Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal.)