Iran president seeks wartime executive powers following USA tensions

EDITORIAL | Act now to silence the Iran war drums

US President Donald Trump's administration has ratcheted up its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran in recent months, raising concerns that the United States and Iran are on a path to war.

Many Democrats have been falsely accusing President Trump and his advisors of "leading the USA into war" with Iran while failing to condemn the regime's current and past behavior. Trump withdrew the United States from the pact a year ago. Several Democrats said they were skeptical about the extent of the threat, but Trump's fellow Republicans generally agreed there was a heightened risk to Americans.

Iran's president has told a group of clerics that he is seeking expanded, wartime executive powers to better deal with an "economic war" triggered by the Trump administration's pullout from the nuclear deal and escalating U.S. sanctions.

On Sunday, a rocket landed near the USA embassy in the Green Zone of Iraq's capital Baghdad, days after non-essential United States staff were ordered to evacuate from diplomatic posts in the country.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that while the threats from Iran in the Middle East remained high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had "put on hold" the potential for attacks on Americans. Last week three USA officials told Reuters that Trump had told his top advisers he does not want war with Iran.

Iran has allegedly sabotaged oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and Yemen's Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels have carried out drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations amid U.S. intelligence warnings that Iran or Iran-backed groups could threaten USA interests. "I just hope Iran is listening". "You can not threaten any Iranian and expect them to engage".

But in a sign of brewing confrontation a year after Washington quit a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions on it, Tehran announced a fourfold increase in its rate of production of low-grade uranium enrichment.

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Mr Shanahan said the recent USA actions in the region were based on "credible threats" to American forces and interests in the Middle East.

The riposte by Iran's top diplomat followed an ominous warning by Trump, who on Sunday suggested the Islamic republic would be destroyed if it attacked USA interests.

A survey of about 1,000 adults conducted between May 17-20 by Reuters and Ipsos indicated that 51 percent believed the USA would go to war with Iran "within the next few years".

The White House then announced that the USA was sending an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and a Patriot missile defence battery to the region because of "troubling and escalatory indications" related to Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied on his Twitter account "NeverThreatenAnIranian".

Relations between Iran and the United States were exacerbated by Washington's unilateral pull-out from the 2015 nuclear agreement and reintroduction of all anti-Tehran sanctions.

"But at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with strength and determination to defend itself and its interests".

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