US President Donald Trump has stated that his earlier decision not to attack Iran was a sign of strength, as it's always easier to attack than to withhold a strike. The POTUS added that he has "many options" on the table regarding how to respond to Tehran's alleged involvement in the attack on Saudi refineries on 14 September.
"There's the ultimate option and there are options a lot less than that", Trump said, elaborating that the "ultimate option" stands for "war".
The US president further stated that Washington hasn't learned much recently about the strikes on the Saudi Aramco facilities last week, but claimed that the US already knows what exactly happened that day.
The US previously accused Iran of attacking Saudi refineries, despite Yemen’s Houthi movement claiming responsibility for it. Tehran has dismissed the accusations as "unacceptable and entirely baseless". Despite this, Trump has said that the US is "locked and loaded" to respond to the attack, but added that the US would wait for Saudi Arabia to identify the "culprit".
The Saudi Defence Ministry, in turn, stated on 18 September that an Iranian cruise missile and Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used in the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities, which crippled the country's crude output for days.
On Upcoming Iranian Sanctions
Trump also elaborated on his earlier statement on Twitter, saying that he had tasked the US Treasury with devising a substantial increase in the sanctions against Iran. The POTUS said that more details on the measures would be made available within two days.
I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
The US has been imposing sanctions against the Iranian economy and separate entities since November 2018. The approach, called a "maximum pressure" campaign, began after Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, having previously claimed that it was "flawed".
Since then, the US president has been insisting that the two states need to negotiate a new agreement that would iron out Washington's concerns regarding Iran and would lift the American sanctions in return. Tehran has so far rejected Trump's offer, arguing that the country can't negotiate while "under pressure" or as long as the other side, the US, fails to adhere to its international commitments – referring to the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Second Time US Strike Looms Over Iran?
Trump has a history of refusing to give a green light to snap retaliatory strikes against Iran. In June 2019, he revealed that he stopped one such strike just 10 minutes before launch following the downing of an American drone by Iranian air defences. He said that the decision was driven by the understanding that the US strike would result in casualties, while the shoot-down of the UAV led to none.
....On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
Back then, Tehran stated that the American drone had violated its airspace along with a P-8 Poseidon spy plane, but that the Iranian defences opted to down only the unmanned aircraft and spare the manned one. Iranian authorities added that both aircraft had ignored warnings. Washington claims that its drone was flying above neutral waters.