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President Donald Trump on Sunday told Iran to never threaten the United States, warning the Islamic Republic that if it wants a fight, it would be "the official end of Iran."
Trump's threat, posted on Twitter, comes amid rising international tensions in the Middle East as the U.S. has dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in recent weeks. The Pentagon says the military moves are in response to "heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations."
When asked on Thursday if the United States is going to war with Iran, Trump said "hope not." The New York Times has reported that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran.
But his national security advisor John Bolton has reportedly pushed within the administration for an aggressive military posture against Iran. According to The New York Times, Shanahan presented an updated military plan that included sending as many as 120,000 ground troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces or accelerates nuclear work.
The revisions to the military plan were ordered by hard-liners led by Bolton, according to the Times.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said there are growing threats from Iran in the region, but he has had trouble convincing America's European allies. British Maj. General Chris Ghika, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State, publicly disagreed with the U.S. assessment.
"There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria," Ghika told Pentagon reporters last week.
The Pentagon later issued a statement saying Ghika's comments "run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region."
Pompeo told CNBC that the White House does not want war and would welcome the opportunity to negotiate with Iran.
"We're not going to miscalculate: Our aim is not war, our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership," Pompeo said. "The forces that we're putting in place, the forces that we've had in the region before — you know, we often have carriers in the Persian Gulf — but the president wanted to make sure that, in the event something took place, we were prepared to respond to it in an appropriate way."