Donald Trump warns Iran of 'obliteration' but insists he is ready to talk

Harriet Alexander
Donald Trump, speaking on the lawn of the White House on Saturday, said he was spending the weekend at Camp David discussing Iran with his aides - AP

Donald Trump warned Iran it was risking “obliteration” if it provoked a war with the United States, but insisted he was not seeking conflict and was willing to talk.

“I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before,” he said, speaking on a Sunday political chat show.

“But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon. You want to talk? Good. Otherwise you can have a bad economy for the next three years.”

Mr Trump’s comments came as the US was reported to have launched a cyber-attack on Iranian weapons systems.

The cyber-attack, carried out on Thursday, disabled computer systems controlling rocket and missile launchers and was launched in retaliation for the shooting down of a US drone that same day, as well as attacks on oil tankers that the US has blamed Iran for.

Debris from a downed US drone recovered inside Iran's territorial waters, displayed by the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran on June 21

On Saturday the US department for homeland security warned that Iran was stepping up its own cyber-attacks on the US.

On Monday the US is expected to detail new sanctions placed on Iran. Mr Trump, who called off a retaliatory military strike against Iran after the downing of the drone, described them as “major”.

He said he decided against a military strike because the potential cost of human lives was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Mr Trump, who spent Saturday huddling with his advisers, initially said he was keen to be Iran's "best friend" - if the country agreed to renounce nuclear weapons.

"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," he said.

His national security advisor, John Bolton, was on Sunday in Israel to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and said Iran should not "mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness".

“No one has granted them a hunting licence in the Middle East," he added.

John Bolton, one of the strongest hawks on Iran, is currently in Israel to discuss the raised tensions

In Kuwait, the US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, urged "all nations to use their diplomatic effort to urge Iran to de-escalate and meet diplomacy with diplomacy".

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, on Sunday insisted he is doing what he can amid the heightened tensions.

Mr Hunt was warned by a previous foreign secretary, David Miliband, that he cannot be "completely absent from the stage", describing the situation as a "pressing global threat to peace and security".

Mr Hunt, who is battling to become the next prime minister, said he was speaking to counterparts "regularly" about the Iran crisis which he called "extremely serious".

The foreign secretary said on Sunday that Britain would consider joining a US military assault on Iran, saying requests are considered "on a case-by-case" basis".

"We will stand by the United States as our strongest ally but of course we have to consider any requests for military support on a case-by-case basis," he said while campaigning in Scotland, according to the Daily Mail.

"We do strongly believe that the solution is for Iran to stop its destabilising activity throughout the Middle East and we are very concerned about the sabotaging of tankers that has happened recently, which is almost certainly Iran, and we’re constantly in touch with the United States.

"We want to de-escalate the situation but we are of course extremely worried."

Andrew Murrison, the Middle East minister in the Foreign Office, on Sunday held talks with the Tehran government.

"At this time of increased regional tensions and at a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal, this visit is an opportunity for further open, frank and constructive engagement with the government of Iran,” the Foreign Office said.

"Dr Murrison will call for urgent de-escalation in the region and raise UK and international concerns about Iran's regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed."

A woman walks past a mural painting showing the founder of the Islamic republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the national flag along the wall of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran

Yet Iran’s head of the strategic council of foreign relations within their foreign ministry, Kamal Kharazi, dismissed Mr Murrison’s efforts as the "usual talking points" and said it was “repetitive”.

Mr Murrison, Mr Kharazi said, told the Iranian delegation that a European payment mechanism to help Iran with US sanctions "will soon become operational, that Britain has always supported the (nuclear deal) and has its own problems with America. Such talks that have always been repetitive.”

On June 28 the remaining signatories to the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna, in an effort to save the accord.

Iran last month said it would reduce compliance with the terms of the deal in protest against the US withdrawal from the agreement.

This week, Tehran announced it was starting a 10-day countdown to surpass the deal's limit on its enriched-uranium stockpile, saying it would exceed the 300-kilogram restriction by June 27.

Iran said on Sunday a "spy drone" had encroached its airspace in May - about a month before it downed the American drone.

An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, on June 13

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, tweeted a map saying the US-made MQ9 Reaper drone - also widely used for carrying out military strikes - had entered his country's airspace on May 26.

Iran, in response to the increase in tensions, has warned that any aggression from the US will cause the region to implode.

"Firing one bullet towards Iran will set fire to the interests of America and its allies" said Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for the armed forces general staff.

"If the enemy - especially America and its allies in the region - make the military mistake of shooting the powder keg on which America's interests lie, the region will be set on fire."