By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump said Thursday that he hopes war with Iran is not inevitable as tensions continue to run at a fever pitch between the rivals.
Asked by a reporter at the White House if Washington and Tehran are headed to war, Trump responded nonchalantly "Hope not."
The president did not elaborate as he prepared to host Swiss President Ueli Maurer. The historically neutral country of Switzerland regularly serves as an intermediary between the U.S. and Iran.
Trump said Wednesday he is "sure" Iran will want to engage in dialogue "soon" amid a U.S. military buildup in the Middle East that his administration says is geared towards deterring unspecified threats from Tehran.
Neither Trump nor his top officials have elaborated on the nature of those alleged threats as the U.S. sends an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region in what they call a precaution to deter any potential attack from Iran.
The U.S. has also ordered the departure of non-essential staff from its diplomatic offices in Iraq.
Four oil tankers were targeted off the United Arab Emirates in what is being called a sabotage attack, and a Saudi oil pipeline was targeted with drones claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
Trump inflamed tensions with Iran when he unilaterally withdrew Washington in May 2017 from a landmark nuclear accord world powers struck with Iran. The Trump administration has repeatedly called on its fellow negotiators, including the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China and the EU to leave the deal, but none have.
They argue that the 2015 accord is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and warned Trump prior to his formal exit that leaving the deal and seeking to scuttle it would inflame tensions, which it has.
Close European allies have been working to save the agreement, angering Washington which has taken successive steps to undermine it, including reimposing U.S. oil sanctions that were lifted as part of the pact.