President Trump made the startling statement at a White House dinner earlier this month, amid fears of Tehran’s longstanding Washington feud bubbling over into all-out war. While indulging in a private meal with conservative talkshow host Rush Limbaugh, Mr Trump was reportedly asked how close the US came to going to war with Iran earlier this year. The question received a chilling answer, as the US President replied “closer than you thought”, according to one attendee.
The White House chief did not elaborate as to why the US came close to conflict with Iran, but with tensions continuing to boil, the danger may not have passed just yet.
Tensions have persisted for decades since Iran’s revolution in 1979, but looked to have reached a resolution in 2015 when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed.
Also known as the nuclear deal, it eased previous fears that Iran was building nuclear missiles which could cause a threat to Washington and its NATO allies.
But the agreement signed under the Barack Obama administration limited Tehran’s ability to enrich uranium – a key process in the building of nuclear weapons.
It also obliged the country’s forces to open up its plants to inspection by international bodies.
But upon Mr Trump’s arrival as White House Chief, the US and Iran clashed over the accord, leading to its abandonment in 2018.
This was also met with toughened economic sanctions on Iran, with the resulting hostility culminating in military exchanges in recent months.
After an attack on a US embassy in Baghdad, the US launched a devastating drone strike which killed Iran’s top general – Qassem Soleimani.
The Iranian regime was left furious, and retaliated with an airstrike on a US airbase in Iraq.
No US soldiers were hurt, as President Trump said that the injuries were minor.
After the attack, he said: “I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things.
“No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.
“I’ve seen people with no legs and no arms.”
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And now, after weeks of simmering tension, another strike was launched on the same airbase in Iraq last week.
It is unknown who launched the mysterious rocket attack, but it came just hours after a chilling warning from Tehran.
Iran’s Major General Hossein Salami said last week in a warning to rivals the US and Israel: “If you make the slightest error, we will hit both of you.”
Ramezan Sharif, another general in Tehran, threatened Israel specifically saying that “the cowardly and craven assassination of commander Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the Americans will lead to the liberation of Jerusalem, by the grace of God”.
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