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US Doesn’t Want War with Iran, But Wants to be Ready: Envoy

WASHINGTON/TEHRAN – The United States does not want a full-blown war with Iran, although it is still trying to build international defenses in the region only in case of conflict, President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the country said, Press TV reported Friday.
Iran is about to surpass a key uranium storage threshold, threatening an agreement reached in 2015 with the world powers to curb its nuclear activity. Tehran did not make an immediate announcement on June 27 that it had done so, perhaps hoping to hear what Europe can offer at a meeting on June 28 to keep the agreement alive.
The big question is whether other countries are ready to join Washington. So far, Europe is favoring diplomacy.
French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to control tensions, and says he hopes to convince Trump to start talks with Iran and avoid a war that will ravage the Middle East. The two men will meet on Friday (June 28) at a summit of the Group of 20 in Japan.
“There is no brief war,” Macron warned. “We know when it’s starting, but not when it’s ending.”
The special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, met with the best European diplomats on June 27 in Paris, and told The Associated Press that he wants to get tougher on Iran, instead of clinging to the nuclear agreement that the United States withdrew last year.
The war with Iran “is not necessary,” Hook said in an interview.
“We are not looking for any conflict in the region,” he said. But if they attack the United States, “we will respond with military force.”
To that end, the US envoy said they are trying to get support for an international naval force in the Persian Gulf, especially to protect shipping.
“The president would like to see an international response from like-minded countries that could come together and contribute assets that could be used to improve maritime security in the region,” said Hook.
But the current Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mark Esper, at his first NATO meeting this week, left Brussels without firm commitments after discussing the idea with the United States’ allies.
Tensions have been rising in the Middle East after the US Impose new sanctions on Iran to paralyze its economy. Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the United States sent an aircraft carrier to the region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands who were already there.
The United States has been concerned about international shipments across the Strait of Hormuz since tankers suffered damage in May and June in what Washington has attributed to Iran’s lacquer mines, although Tehran denies having participated. Last week, Iran shot down an unmanned surveillance aircraft of the United States Navy, saying it violated its territory; Washington said it was in international airspace.
Iran recently quadrupled its production of low enriched uranium as it slowly moves away from the nuclear agreement. Although Trump took the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China remain part of the pact.
Iran said earlier that it would exceed the 300-kilogram storage limit set by the agreement in June 27. Tehran made no statement about it, possibly because it was a holiday weekend in the country, but also because he could be waiting for the outcome of a key meeting on Friday in Vienna by European officials on the nuclear agreement.
An Iranian official in Vienna said the country was 2.8 kilograms below that limit on Wednesday and that there will be no further evaluation until “after the weekend.”
Even if it exceeds that limit, “we are not breaching the agreement,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions that involve the agreement.
The official insisted that Iran wants to “save the deal” and urged Europeans to start buying Iranian oil or give Iran a line of credit to keep the agreement alive.
At the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters that if his country exceeded the limit, it could quickly reverse itself as soon as Tehran sees a recovery in its oil and banking sectors, he said. He hopes “tangible results can be achieved” in Vienna “so that we can reverse our decision”.
Hook declined to comment on whether Iran had exceeded the limit, but estimated that Iran is still at least a year away from building a nuclear weapon. Iran denies that it seeks nuclear weapons.
“That is the standard of Iran’s nuclear agreement, that Iran should never be able to get to a nuclear weapon in less than a year.” This is relevant because Iran is still the holder of the world’s leading state terrorist sponsor, “he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter urging the European signatories to agree to fulfill their commitments, saying that Iran’s next steps depend on that, Iran’s state television reported on June 27.
Britain, France and Germany are finalizing a complicated barter system known as INSTEX to maintain trade with Iran and avoid sanctions from the United States, as part of efforts to keep the nuclear deal afloat.
Hook dismissed those efforts, suggesting that no company will use such a system because it would prefer to trade with the United States than with Iran.
Instead, he said: “We would like the European Union to impose sanctions on those people and organizations that are facilitating the Iranian missile program … If sanctions are not applied, a signal of tacit approval is also sent.”
He suggested the frustration that France has not been frank about Iran recently, but rejected any “transatlantic rift.”
Zarif, from Iran, criticized Trump on June 27, and tweeted that “sanctions are not (an) alternative to war, they are war.”
The United States has said it can also punish Zarif, who helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear deal.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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