(CNSNews.com) – President Trump told the Iranian regime during an interview aired on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday that he was not looking for war – but that if war breaks out, “it’ll be obliteration like you've never seen before.”
“But I’m not looking to do that,” he added, in remarks directed at supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “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.”
Trump reaffirmed that he was willing to sit down with the Iranians with “no preconditions.”
“Look, you can’t have nuclear weapons,” he repeated. “And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.”
The interview was recorded on Friday, the same day Trump confirmed on his Twitter account that he had approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for its shooting down of a military surveillance drone, only to call it off shortly before it was to go ahead.
Host Chuck Todd asked the president whether he felt any of his advisors were pushing him to take military action against Iran.
Trump replied that he had “doves” and “hawks” among them, adding that “[National Security Advisor] John Bolton is absolutely a hawk.”
“If it was up to him he'd take on the whole world at one time, okay?” he said. “But that doesn’t matter, because I want both sides.”
Trump then recalled his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war launched in 2003, and repeated his frequent assertion that the U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East.
Visiting Israel at the weekend, Bolton had a warning for Iran too, saying that neither the regime in Tehran “nor any other hostile actor, should mistake U.S. prudence for weakness.”
“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” he said in comments alongside Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Bolton then quoted an excerpt from Trump’s Friday morning tweet: “our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting and more added last night. Iran can never have nuclear weapons, not against the USA, and not against the world.”
“And as he made clear yesterday, referring to his earlier remarks,” Bolton added, “the president said, I just stopped the strike from going forward at this time.”
Bolton was apparently quoting from a tweet by the president on Saturday, in which he said, “I never called the strike against Iran ‘BACK,’ as people are incorrectly reporting, I just stopped it from going forward at this time!”
Bolton also indicated that the new sanctions against Iran, referred to by Trump since Friday, would likely be publicly announced on Monday.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, reacting to news of an imminent sanctions announcement, said Sunday the U.S. has already slapped all the sanctions it can on Iran, and there are none left to impose.
In comments at the White House, in his tweets, and in his NBC interview, Trump indicated several times that the fact the drone shot down by the Iranians over the Persian Gulf was unmanned had been a factor in his decision not to carry out a punitive strike.
On Friday an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander said that a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon spy plane had been accompanying the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone but had deliberately not been targeted by the surface-to-air missiles used to bring down the drone.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Saturday that the Iranians had been “very wise” not to shoot down the P-8, which he said carried a crew of 38.
“They had it in their sights, and they didn’t shoot it down,” he said. “I think that was a very wise decision – and I think that’s something that we very much appreciate.”
Trump also described himself as neither a “warmonger” nor a “dove,” as he said some people call him.
“I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth. I’m a man with common sense, and that’s what we need in this country.”