WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he doesn't know whether the United States is closer to negotiations or war with Iran. He said he'll wait and see how the feud unfolds.
"Iran doesn’t know where they are ... they are a very mixed up country," Trump said at the White House. "Their country is in turmoil. ... Whatever it is, I’m just going to sit back and watch."
He added, "We're ready for the absolute worst."
Trump spoke in the wake of Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker, as well as arrests of people Iran said have been spying for the United States – a claim Trump denied.
"That's totally a false story," he said before a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. "That’s another lie."
The administration announced it placed sanctions on a Chinese company for transporting Iranian crude oil in violation of U.S. restrictions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Wall Street Journal that Chinese company Zhuhai Zhenrong and one of its executives knowingly violated U.S. rules.
On Twitter earlier in the day, Trump called Iran’s claim that it captured spies "more lies and propaganda" put out "by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do."
"Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!" Trump tweeted.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said Monday it arrested 17 people who supplied classified information to the United States.
"The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas," the ministry said in a statement.
Iran said it issued death sentences to members of a CIA spy ring.
The espionage claims and counter-claims are the latest incident in increasingly tense relations between the United States and Iran.
Much of the tension surrounds the Trump administration's increase of sanctions on Iran in the wake of the president's decision to withdraw the United States from a nuclear deal with Iran.
Last week, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
This year, Trump considered a military strike on Iranian facilities in retaliation for Iran shooting down a U.S. drone. Trump changed his mind, deciding that such a military strike was not proportional to the loss of an unmanned drone.
Last week, the United States said it destroyed an Iranian drone, a claim the Iranians disputed.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: War with Iran? Donald Trump says he will see how things unfold