It will be official end of Iran, warns Trump
I'm not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly — Donald Trump, US President
Washington: In his sternest direct threat to Tehran, US President Donald Trump has warned that a military confrontation with America would "be the official end of Iran."
Tensions between the US and Iran have been growing as the Trump administration has deployed a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf, citing Iranian "threats."
"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran," he said in a tweet on Sunday. "Never threaten the United States again!" The terse tweet comes amid rising fears over a potential military confrontation between the two countries.
Trump administration officials are debating recent intelligence regarding whether Iran or the militias it supports are possibly planning to attack US assets in the Gulf or whether it is acting defensively in an attempt to deter US action.
Trump's tweet marks a shift in tone after recent attempts from both sides to downplay the possibility of dangerous military conflict.
In an interview with Fox News broadcast on Sunday, Trump vowed that he would not let Iran develop nuclear weapons but said he did not want a conflict.
"I'm not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly - by far most importantly," the US president said.
Reacting to Trump stepping up his rhetoric toward Tehran, the country's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday the US President's "genocidal taunts" will not "end Iran".
"Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won't 'end Iran'," Zarif tweeted.
"Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect -- it works!" he said. The latest Washington-Tehran frictions come after Iran suspended its commitments under the 2015 landmark international nuclear deal, and threatened to resume production of enriched uranium which is used to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.
The deal aimed to cut sanctions on Iran in exchange for an end to its nuclear programme, but the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement last year.