President Donald Trump doubled down on his decision to not issue a retaliatory military strike against Iran after days of back-and-forth over his response to the country’s strike on a US drone above or near Iran’s territorial waters.
Speaking just a day after he called off a US military strike against Iran for the downed Navy drone, Trump told reporters at the White House he was looking forward to next steps in US relations to the country after “getting praise” for his decision to pull back the strike.
“I come from New York City, we have a lot of Iranians, and they’re great people,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report. “I have friends that are Iranians. They’re very smart, they’re very ambitious and tremendous, high-quality people. I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians…I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Reuters reporter Priscilla Huff tweeted from the press gaggle that Trump also said he now looked forward to starting over with Iran, even echoing his campaign slogan by saying: “Let’s make Iran great again.”
The president also credited the country for not shooting down a manned spy plane that Iranian officials said was nearby the drone, saying it was a “very wise decision,” according to a White House press pool report.
The Associated Press reported Friday that an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general said a manned American spy plane was near the drone but officials chose not to target it.
Trump told reporters that next steps in the countries’ relationship would develop pending a deal to limit the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Trump previously walked away from an Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. The country shocked the global community when it announced earlier this month that it intended to build up its uranium stockpile and ramp up enrichment of low-grade uranium, violating the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said. “When they agree to that, they’re going to have a wealthy country. They’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend. I hope that happens.”
Trump also said the attack was “probably intentional,” a firm development after he had seemed to waver on his dealings with the country earlier in the week, saying the day after the attack that it was “a mistake” and that he found it “hard to believe” the attack was “intentional” while only offering vague answers about whether he would pursue war with Iran.
Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander of the elite military unit that reports to Iran’s supreme leader, issued a clearer account of the country’s actions, saying there was “a clear message” that Iran would strike back against any US aggression.
“Borders are our red lines and any enemy which violates them will not go back home and will be annihilated. The only way for enemies is to respect Iran’s territorial integrity and national interests,” Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars news agency.
Trump’s comments come within an hour of Brian Hook, the US special envoy to Iran, telling CNBC that the US is going to increase sanctions on Iran.
Hook said the sanctions would increase pressure on Iran to address the country’s “regional aggression” and bring Iran “back to the negotiating table.”
“Ultimately we would like to have a new deal that addresses Iran’s regional aggression, the missile program, and its nuclear program,” Hook said. “In order to do that, it is going to take pressure. And in order to get Iran to change its behavior, it is going to take a lot of pressure. So we are going to increase our sanctions on Iran, we are going to continue with this foreign policy.”