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Trump says he's open to Iran talks without preconditions

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Trump offered an implicit defense of what critics have characterized as a chaotic-appearing decision-making process in the White House on how or whether to engage militarily with Tehran.

The president's depiction of his abrupt scrapping of military strikes shortly before they were to have taken place on Thursday night – he said the next day on Twitter that he was told at the last minute the strikes would result in approximately 150 Iranian deaths--has been publicly questioned by a number of experts and former national security officials.

Normally, casualty scenarios would be explored much earlier in the process. But Trump provided a similar account to Todd, with casualty projections only coming into play as final preparations were being made for military action.

"I thought about it for a second and I said, 'You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead,'" the president recounted. "And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was--I didn't think it was proportionate."

Bolton, who has long advocated settling disputes with Iran by force if necessary, employed more tough rhetoric on Sunday in Jerusalem, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fellow harsh critic of Iran. With the Israeli prime minister by his side, the U.S. national security advisor said Iran should not "mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness."

Referring to the shooting down of the U.S. drone, which American military officials have said was flying over international waters, Bolton declared: "No one has granted them 1/8Iranian forces3/8 a hunting license in the Middle East."

 

Trump, speaking to NBC, acknowledged that on the spectrum of his senior advisors, Bolton is "absolutely a hawk." But he played down his national security advisor's consistent stridency on Iran, saying he wanted to hear a variety of viewpoints.

"If it was up to him, he'd take on the whole world at one time, OK?" Trump said of Bolton. "But that doesn't matter, because I want both sides."

Iran continued to insist Sunday that the United States bears the blame for regional tensions. Iran's official news agency IRNA on Sunday quoted Rouhani as saying he hoped the international community would condemn the "interventionist military presence" of the United States.

On another topic, Trump expressed confidence in the face of growing sentiment among congressional Democrats that the House should open impeachment proceedings against him.

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