US President Donald Trump has said he does not want to go to war with Iran, but would not allow Tehran to have nuclear weapons -- a goal the Islamic Republic has never pursued.
"With all of everything that’s going on, and I’m not one that believes -- you know, I’m not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly -- by far most importantly," Trump told Fox News on Sunday.
"I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons -- you just can’t let that happen," he added.
Tensions mounted between Tehran and Washington last May, when Trump pulled his country out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.
In the interview, Trump touched upon his withdrawal from the deal, claiming it had some major impacts on Iran’s economy.
"I ended the Iran nuclear deal, and actually, I must tell you -- I had no idea it was going to be as strong as it was. It totally -- the country is devastated from the standpoint of the economy," he said.
Trump has once again threatened to destroy Iran if the Islamic Republic attacked its interests in spite of Tehran saying that it was not seeking war.
His most recent tweet appears to be a shift in tone just days after he said he was interested in diplomacy and wanted to avoid war.
Trump and his hawkish advisors such as National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been stepping up pressure against Iranians since last May.
He has also tightened economic sanctions against Tehran and blacklisted the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washingtonís exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and sending military reinforcements, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, to the Persian Gulf region.