Administration

Trump says he wants to avoid war with Iran

President Trump said Monday that he wants to avoid war with Iran, a day after warning that the United States was "locked and loaded" in response to attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

"Do I want war? I don't want war with anybody," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday afternoon during a meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain, later adding: "We have the strongest military in the world."

Trump cited U.S. fighter jets, missiles and other systems as the best of their kind.

"With all that being said, we'd certainly like to avoid it," he said of a potential military conflict.

Top Trump administration officials have blamed Tehran for the attack on the two oil sites in Saudi Arabia, though Trump has insisted he's still waiting on final confirmation of Iran's culpability.

Iran, meanwhile, has denied involvement. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have claimed responsibility and threatened further strikes.

The administration has been weighing a response to the attack, which shut down roughly 5 percent of the global oil supply and sent oil prices skyrocketing.

Still, Trump said Monday that he wasn't looking at options yet until the U.S. definitively determines where the drone strikes came from, promising to release information in "very great detail" in the near future. Trump said officials know the "exact locations" of where the drones originated.

Trump later told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that he believed a lethal U.S. military strike would be proportional to an Iranian one on an oil site.

"I would say yes," Trump told reporters before departing the White House for a campaign rally in New Mexico.

Trump also denied that he was out of step with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by not definitively blaming Iran for the attack, saying they were waiting for final confirmation. 

"I think we're the same, I think we just want to find out the final numbers," Trump told reporters. "We're going to know very quickly."

Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" after the attack - seeming to hint at possible military action - and said his administration suspected a culprit but did not name Iran specifically.

Trump told reporters Monday it "certainly would look" as if Iran was behind the attack, but said the U.S. was awaiting final confirmation.

"Well, it's looking that way," Trump told reporters when asked if Iran was responsible, though he wouldn't say for certain.

"We'll let you know definitively," Trump continued. "That's being checked out right now."

"We think we know who it was," he continued. "It would look to most like it was Iran."

Trump said the attack "could be met with an attack many, many times larger from our country."  

Trump also said Monday that diplomacy hadn't been exhausted with Iran, telling reporters, "I know they want to make a deal."

He also said he did not promise Saudi Arabia he would protect them.

"No, I haven't promised the Saudis that," Trump said. "We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out."

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have run high since Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and have risen in recent months after Iran downed a U.S. military drone in June.

Trump recently has seemed open to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, but the likelihood grew significantly less over recent days following the oil facility attack.

On Sunday, Trump announced he had authorized the use of the U.S.'s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to counter any negative effect on the markets from the attack. He also tweeted that the U.S. is still awaiting verification of who was responsible, but that the country is "locked and loaded depending on verification."

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said earlier Monday that Iranian weapons were used in the drone strikes on the oil facilities.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper tweeted Monday afternoon that he had just returned from a meeting at the White House and that the military was working on a response. He blamed Iran for undermining "international rules-based order."

"I just returned to the Pentagon from a meeting at the @WhiteHouse where DoD leadership and others briefed the Commander in Chief on the situation," Esper tweeted Monday.

"The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran," he wrote. 

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