TRUMP: I ‘couldn’t care less’ if Iran wants to negotiate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday made it clear that the days for negotiation between the United States and Iran are long over.

The president’s comments come after weeks of escalating tensions between the U.S., culminating in a coup that led to the killing of Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani. Iran retaliated one week later by launching dozens of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq’s Ain Assad air base which housed U.S. troops.

“I think the maximum pressure campaign is working,” White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told “Fox News Sunday.” “Iran is being choked off, and Iran is going to have no other choice but to come to the table.”

O’Brien told Fox News he believes the financial sanctions on Iran will eventually be too much for the rogue state to bear.

“There’s no other way for them to get the money they need,” he said. “What’s going to cause them to negotiate is the pressure on the economy, and when you’ve got students out there chanting ‘death to the dictator,’ and when you have thousands of Iranians out protesting in the street, that’s the sort of pressure that’s going to bring them to the table.”

The president followed O’Brien’s comments with a scathing tweet in which he warned Iranian officials that they are in no position to propose a deal.

“National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran ‘choked off,’ will force them to negotiate. Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate,” Trump wrote. “Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters.'”

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Kinzinger: Iran Goading US to ‘Overreact’

WASHINGTON — Iran is trying to push the United States into taking two different courses of action on the escalating tensions in the Middle East: “overreact or do nothing at all”, Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Thursday.

Kinzinger says either reaction would only aid Iran.

“They either want the U.S. to not react to provocation, which makes us look weak, or they want us to overreact which, in that way, they can use the “blame America first” crowd in the United States,” the Illinois Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

There have been numerous conflicts with Iran since 1979, said Kinzinger, “despite the fact we have never invaded Iran, and yet somehow, this is our fault.”

So far, said Kinzinger, President Trump has refused to plan into his detractors’ hands, instead choosing to respond “proportionately, but with strength.”

Kinzinger, who served in the Air National Guard, categorized the threat by Iran as escalating but said we are not yet in red level status yet. “It’s a fact that they want to destroy the United States,” said Kinzinger he said. “They say ‘Death to America’ We have to take them seriously.”

However, it would be a mistake for the United States to retaliate too quickly, said Kinzinger. Doing so would only benefit the rogue state.

“I’m not sure this is quite yet rising to the level of ‘we are on the brink of an impending battle with Iran,'” said Kinzinger. “Iran is overreacting; we are reacting in a measured way.”

“Keep in mind, the rest of the region, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, everywhere, people are protesting against Iranian expansion into the Middle East,” Kinzinger added. “Right now they’re on the decline and we are in a much better position to see this thing through.”

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‘MANY OPTIONS’: Trump considers penalties for Iran as tensions mount

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said there are “many options” with dealing with Iran in the wake of the rogue state’s alleged attack on Saudi Arabia.

“There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” the president told reporters while in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”

Trump has already ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran” in the wake of the the Sept. 14 raids which left the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility devastated.

Despite Iran’s denials that it was involved in the attack, which temporarily knocked out half of Saudi production, Saudi officials produced drone and missile debris which they claimed provided “undeniable evidence” of Iranian involvement.

“A total of 25 drones and missiles were used in the attacks launched from Iran, not Yemen,” Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told the media at a news conference. “The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” he said, adding that Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used in addition to cruise missiles.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the attack a “real test of the global will” to confront subversion of the international order.

In an interview with the BBC, Salmon’s envoy to London, Prince Khalid bin Bander, said the attack was “almost certainly” Iranian-backed.

“We’re trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region,” said Bander.

Despite the evidence, Iranian officials continue to deny any wrongdoing.

“They want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

“We don’t want conflict in the region … Who started the conflict?” he asked, before directly placing the blame on Washington and its Gulf allies for the ongoing war in Yemen.

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‘NO MORE JOHN KERRY & OBAMA!’: Trump threatens to ‘obliterate’ Iran as tensions escalate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday drew a clear line in the sand with Iran, threatening to “obliterate” the rogue state as tensions between East and West mount.

The president’s comments come in the wake of Iran’s response to tough new sanctions imposed upon them by the Trump administration, which Iranian officials referred to as “mentally retarded.”

“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone.”

“The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more,” the president continued. “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry and Obama!”

Speaking at a White House press conference, the president reiterated his threats against Tehran and vowed Iran must not be cleared a path to develop nuclear weapons.

“We’re not gonna allow that to happen, can’t do it,” Trump said, warning Iranian officials to end the “hostility.”

Trump went on to say he hopes Iran gets the “message” from the newly issued sanctions, but warned Iran is “not going to need an exit strategy” should they choose not to comply.

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HITTING HARD: Trump fires off tough new sanctions against Iran as tensions mount

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order targeting Iran’s supreme leader with financial sanctions as tensions increase with the United States.

The sanctions, which follow follow Iran’s downing of a more than $100 million U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, are meant to deter Tehran from supporting militant groups and from developing nuclear weapons.

“These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he signed the executive order. “We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased enrichment of uranium, development of ballistic missiles, engagement and support for terrorism, fueling of foreign conflicts and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”

The sanctions are a direct hit to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and prevent him from accessing money and other methods of financial support.

Tensions have been steadily increasing between the U.S. and Iran since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran signed by former president Barack Obama Iran re-imposed economic sanctions against the rogue state.

Iranian officials have declared the sanctions put forth by President Trump, which essentially bar Iran from selling oil internationally, as “economic terrorism.”

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TRUMP: I Reversed on Striking Iran Because 150 People Would Die

WASHINGTON (Newsmax) — President Donald Trump said Friday the U.S. was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran for downing an unmanned American surveillance drone, but he canceled the strikes he had ordered 10 minutes before they were to be launched after being told 150 people could die

Trump’s tweeted statement raised several questions, including how he could have learned about casualties only minutes before the operation when that information typically would be provided much earlier. His tweet was the latest indication that he does not want to escalate the U.S. clash with Tehran, though he didn’t rule out future strikes. He said U.S. economic sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy, more are being added and he insisted anew that the U.S. would never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon

After days of harsh words against the United States, Iran also seemed to be tamping down its rhetoric.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, told reporters on Friday that a U.S. spy plane with around 35 crew members was flying close to the unmanned U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk that was shot down, but that Iran chose not to target the manned aircraft. Separately, he told Iranian state TV that Iran warned the drone several times before downing it with a missile.

Late Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration barred American-registered aircraft from flying over parts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and several major airlines from around the world on Friday began rerouting their flights , including British Airways, Australia’s Qantas, Germany’s Lufthansa and the Dutch carrier KLM.

In a lengthy tweet, Trump defended his stance on Iran amid criticism from Democrats who accuse him of having no strategy. He said he pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for pledges to rein in its nuclear program, because the agreement only temporarily blocked Iran from having nuclear weapons. Trump said the nuclear deal also did not stem Iran’s support of militant groups or restrain its ballistic missile program.

He said his exit from the deal and the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran has crippled its economy.

“Now they are Bust!” Trump tweeted and then outlined his reasons for canceling the strikes.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”

He added that those deaths would not be a proportionate response to the downing of an unmanned drone.

“I am in no hurry,” he said. “Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”

The overnight events, however, were a stark reminder of the serious risk of military conflict between U.S. and Iranian forces as the Trump administration combines its “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American troops in the region. As tensions have mounted in recent weeks, there have been growing fears that either side could make a dire miscalculation leading to war.

The U.S. military operation was called off around 7:30 p.m. Washington time, after Trump had spent most of Thursday discussing Iran strategy with top national security advisers and congressional leaders.

The downing of the U.S. drone — a huge, unmanned aircraft — over the Strait of Hormuz prompted accusations from the U.S. and Iran about who was the aggressor. Iran insisted the drone violated Iranian airspace; Washington said it had been flying over international waters.

Trump’s initial comments on the attack were succinct. He declared in a tweet on Thursday that “Iran made a very big mistake!” But he also suggested that shooting down the drone — which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 — was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation, suggesting he was looking for some way to avoid a crisis.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the White House. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

Trump, who has said he wants to avoid war and negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, cast the shootdown as “a new wrinkle … a new fly in the ointment.” Yet he also said “this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”

But fears of open conflict shadowed much of the discourse in Washington. As the day wore on, Trump summoned his top national security advisers and congressional leaders to the White House for an hour-long briefing in the Situation Room. Attendees included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Army Secretary Mark Esper, whom Trump has said he’ll nominate as Pentagon chief.

“The president was very clear of what he wants to achieve with Iran — to never allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told “Fox and Friends” Friday.

“He was very clear that there will be action,” said McCarthy, who was in the meeting.

“He has a long-term game plan here and it doesn’t mean that you have to act within the few hours. … He’s just not overreacting. It’s going to be measured. And it’s going to achieve a goal.”

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the White House. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

Trump, who has said he wants to avoid war and negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, cast the shootdown as “a new wrinkle … a new fly in the ointment.” Yet he also said “this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”

But fears of open conflict shadowed much of the discourse in Washington. As the day wore on, Trump summoned his top national security advisers and congressional leaders to the White House for an hour-long briefing in the Situation Room. Attendees included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Army Secretary Mark Esper, whom Trump has said he’ll nominate as Pentagon chief.

“The president was very clear of what he wants to achieve with Iran — to never allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told “Fox and Friends” Friday.

“He was very clear that there will be action,” said McCarthy, who was in the meeting.

“He has a long-term game plan here and it doesn’t mean that you have to act within the few hours. … He’s just not overreacting. It’s going to be measured. And it’s going to achieve a goal.”

Pompeo and Bolton have advocated hardline policies against Iran, but Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, said “the president certainly was listening” when congressional leaders at the meeting urged him to be cautious and not escalate the already tense situation.

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers insisted the White House must consult with Congress before taking any actions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said no specific options for a U.S. response were presented at Thursday’s meeting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The administration is engaged in what I would call measured responses.” And late Thursday, House Republicans on the Foreign Affairs, intelligence and Armed Services committees issued a statement using the same word, saying, “There must be a measured response to these actions.”

The Trump administration has been putting increasing economic pressure on Iran for more than a year. It reinstated punishing sanctions following Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of an international agreement intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from earlier sanctions.

Citing Iranian threats, the U.S. recently sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution.

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REPORT: Iran ups uranium production as US tensions mount

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran will surpass the uranium-stockpile limit set by its nuclear deal in the next 10 days, an official said Monday, raising pressure on Europeans trying to save the accord a year after the U.S. withdrawal lit the fuse for the heightened tensions now between Tehran and Washington.

The announcement by Iran’s nuclear agency marked yet another deadline set by Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani already has warned Europe that a new deal needs to be in place by July 7 or the Islamic Republic would increase its enrichment of uranium.

Atomic energy spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi suggested that Iran’s enrichment could reach up to 20%, just a step away from weapons-grade levels.

It appears as if Iran has begun its own maximum pressure campaign on the world after facing one from President Donald Trump’s administration that deeply cut into its sale of crude oil abroad and sent its economy into freefall. Europe has so far been unable to offer Iran a way around the U.S. sanctions.

The development follows apparent attacks last week in the Strait of Hormuz on oil tankers, assaults that Washington has blamed on Iran. While Iran has denied being involved, it laid mines in the 1980s targeting oil tankers around the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes.

“If this condition continues, there will be no deal” anymore, Kamalvandi said. He accused the Europeans of “killing time” as the clock runs down.

Rouhani, greeting France’s new ambassador to Tehran on Monday, similarly warned that time was running out on the deal.

“The current situation is very critical and France and the other parties to the (deal) still have a very limited opportunity to play their historic role for saving the deal,” Rouhani said, according to his website.

The announcement appeared timed to strike just as European foreign ministers met in Luxembourg. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, declined to specifically address the Iranian announcement.

“At the moment, as of today, Iran is still technically compliant and we strongly hope, encourage and expect that Iran continues to comply,” Mogherini told journalists. She insisted she would await the next report on the issue from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. Kamalvandi said that given Iran’s recent decision to quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium, it would pass the 300-kilogram limit on Thursday, June 27.

The Vienna-based IAEA said last month that Iran remained within its stockpile limits and declined to comment on Iran’s announcement. Kamalvandi said Iran would continue to allow the U.N. to inspect its nuclear facilities for the time being.

He also raised the specter of increasing its enrichment levels, saying Iran needs 5% enriched uranium for its nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr and 20% enriched fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

The nuclear deal limits Iran to enriching uranium only to 3.67%, enough for power plants and other peaceful purposes.

But after America pulled out of the nuclear accord and escalated sanctions, Rouhani set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with better terms for the deal or Tehran would boost enrichment further. So far, a European mechanism called INSTEX to protect trade with Iran has yet to take off.

The danger, nuclear nonproliferation experts warn, is that at 20% enrichment, only a fraction of atoms need to be removed to enrich up to weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the 2015 deal grew out of Western concerns about the program.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since Trump took office, the U.S. has steadily stripped away at the accord, and he pulled America out of the deal in May 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the international community should reinstate sanctions if Iran follows through on its threats, adding: “In any case, Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Tensions have risen in the region since last month. The U.S. rushed an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the Middle East in response to what it said were threats from Iran.

Meanwhile, a series of mysterious attacks have targeted oil tankers, and the U.S. blames Iranian-laid limpet mines. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen also have launched a series of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which the U.S. suspects in the attacks, answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and operates outside of the traditional military’s control.

Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of the general staff of Iran’s armed forces, denied Tehran was involved in the tanker attacks, saying Monday the country only would respond in “an open, strong and severe way” if needed.

But he also reiterated Iran’s traditional stance on the Strait of Hormuz.

“If we decide to block the Strait of Hormuz, we will to do it in a way that even a drop of oil won’t pass the strait,” Bagheri added.

Kamalvandi spoke to Iranian journalists at the country’s Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. Such reactors produce plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons. Iran, under the nuclear deal, had reconfigured the facility to address Western concerns on that issue.

However, Kamalvandi said the country could rebuild the facility to make it produce plutonium. He made a point to give an interview to Iranian state television, standing next to the open pit where the reactor would be in the facility.

As the camera panned down to what would be the reactor’s core, Kamalvandi stressed that piping could be replaced and the reactor could be built to make plutonium. Hard-liners opposed to the nuclear deal had constantly accused the agency of filling the entire pit with concrete.

“They had previously photoshoped a picture of this place having been filled up with concrete,” Kamalvandi said.

He added: “The message that we tried to get across to Europeans today was that not much time is left for them.”

___

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi, Raf Casert and Frank Jordans contributed to the contents of this report.

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THREATS OF WAR: Iran pushes back in wake of latest Trump sanctions

WASHINGTON — Iran on Monday hit back against the U.S. in the wake of newly reimposed sanctions ordered by President Donald Trump, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warning a that “war situation” now faces Tehran.

The sanctions, which were once lifted as the result of a 2015 nuclear deal with former U.S. President Barack Obama, were reinstated on Monday.

In televised air-defense drills, Iranian people can be seen cheering before the camera and chanting “death to America”.

Last week the U.S. Treasury Department imposed penalties on more than 700 Iranian and Iranian-linked individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels as part of the new sanctions. Among them are 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 high ranking individuals and shipping vessels, Iran Air, the nation’s state-run airline, and more than 65 of its planes.

The new sanctions also targeted Iran’s oil industry, which serves as a crucial source of hard currency. In a statement on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that the sanctions have already cost Iran the sale of over 1 million barrels of crude oil per day.

“Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East and, indeed, around the world,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlawed course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”

President Trump, who campaigned on a promise of voiding the Obama nuclear deal, says he wants Iran to radically change its policies, including halting its support for radical militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

Rouhani, who remains defiant in the wake of the sanctions, vowed that Iran would still continue to sell its oil on the international market.

“We are in an economic war situation. We are standing up to a bullying enemy,” Rouhani told government officials in televised remarks, referencing Iran’s previous war with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “Yesterday, Saddam was in front us; today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win.”

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‘MAXIMUM PRESSURE’: Trump reinstates sanctions against Iran lifted as part of controversial Obama nuke deal

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday announced the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions against Iran that had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal.

The sanctions, which will be fully reinstated, are scheduled to take effect on Monday and will cover Iran’s financial, shipping and energy sectors. The effort is just the latest of multiple penalties imposed upon the rogue nation since President Trump withdrew from the contentious deal in May.

The first, on August 7, targeted Iran’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, trade in gold and precious metals, and make transactions relating to the Iranian rial, the nation’s currency.

In a statement released by the White House Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“Maximum pressure means maximum pressure,” Pompeo said.

The Trump administration has released a list of 12 demands that Iran must agree to if it wants the sanctions removed, including ending support for terrorism, ending military engagement in Syria and agreeing to a complete halt of its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

The sanctions will also penalize countries that continue to import Iranian oil and foreign companies that do business with blacklisted Iranian interests, including Iran’s central bank and state-run port and shipping sectors.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said further details would be made available once the sanctions are put into place on Monday.

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IRAN THREATENS US: ‘Our missiles can hit ANY ship’; Tensions mount in wake of increased US sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Iranian government issued a chilling barrage of threats toward the United States Tuesday, warning that their land-to-sea ballistic missile could “hit any ship”.

The warnings came in the wake of increased tensions between Iran and the U.S. in recent weeks as a result of new sanctions issued upon Iran by U.S. president Donald Trump.

“We have managed to make land-to-sea ballistic, not cruise, missiles that can hit any vessel or ship from 700 kilometres,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, said in a statement, in which he went on to threaten to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Trump ordered the sanctions placed upon the rogue country in response to reports that Iran has continued development of nuclear weapons – allegations Iranian government officials continue to deny.

Iranian Oil Minister, Bijan Zanganeh, responded angrily to the sanctions, accusing Trump of “bullying” other nations, and claimed the global market is suffering as a result.

“The oil market is suffering from short supply and this cannot be resolved by words,” said Zanganeh. “Trump thinks he can bring the oil prices down by bullying. Everyone is worried and Trump has failed to reassure them. That’s why the market is in turmoil.”

Trump has declared that any country that continues doing business with Iran is subject to harsh U.S. penalties.

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