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Iran says Trump is playing 'dangerous game' that will have 'painful consequences'

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday that the threat from Iran is 'on hold,' as he attempted to deescalate a conflict with Tehran.

Shanahan told Pentagon reporters, according to Politico, 'We have put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans.'

'I just hope Iran is listening,' Shanahan said. 'We're in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran.' 

The U.S. Pentagon chief delivered the message to Iran through the press after its foreign minister said he won't negotiate with Washington until it backs off on recent threats.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday that the threat from Iran is 'on hold,' as he attempted to deescalate a conflict with Tehran

Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, said Americans risk 'painful consequences' by ramping up military and economic pressure against the Islamist regime.

'The United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,' he said in a CNN interview, demanding 'respect' from the White House as a condition of any future negotiations.

'There will be painful consequences for everybody if there is an escalation against Iran. That's for sure. The United States is engaging in economic warfare against Iran. It has to stop.' 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected any talks with the United States, calling hours earlier on Tuesday for his government to be given more power to run the sanctions-hit economy in an 'economic war.'

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States a year ago from an Obama-era 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers under which Tehran committed to curbing its uranium enrichment capacity, a potential pathway to a nuclear bomb, and won sanctions relief in return.

Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says his country won't negotiate with Donald Trump unless the U.S. shows Tehran 'respect,' and warns that the U.S. is 'playing a very, very dangerous game' by boosting its military presence in the region

Trump took a soft approach to Tehran a few weeks ago, encouraging dialogue, but more recently threatened 'the end of Iran' if it crosses him

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the Wasp-class Amphibious Assault Ship USS Kearsarge (background) are among the American naval vessels now stationed in the Arabian Sea, in part to keep Iran in check and protect U.S. allies' oil tankers in the region

Trump restored U.S. sanctions on Iran last year and has ratcheted them up this month, believing Iran has not kept its end of the bargain. He has also threatened all countries with sanctions of their own if they don't halt imports of Iranian oil.

'Today's situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,' the state-run news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.

Washington's European allies say they share U.S. concerns about Iran's behavior, but disagree with Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, a move they say undermines Rouhani's pragmatic faction and boosts Iran's hardliners.

They have sought to ensure Iran still benefits from the nuclear deal by finding ways for foreign companies to do business there. But in practice this has so far failed, with companies cancelling investments for fear of U.S. retaliation.

Iran said this month it could resume uranium enrichment beyond levels allowed in the now-fractured nuclear deal if European countries do not find ways to ease financial pressure within 60 days.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the Iranian threats were not helpful as Europe sought ways to offset U.S. sanctions: 'I do not think that Europe will get drawn into this idea of an ultimatum,' Le Maire told reporters.

 Trump threatened Tehran with doom in a fight, prompting Zarif to boast that the president would fare no better than Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great in demolishing his country

Zarif tweeted a 'Never Threaten An Iranian' hashtag and demanded 'respect' instead of 'genocidal taunts'

CNN send a reporter to interview Zarif as Iran rattled sabers in the direction of Washington

An American F/A-18E Super Hornet flew above the USS Abraham Lincoln on Saturday in the Arabian Sea

Trump said Sunday that he's happy to starve Iran of funds slowly while its leaders debate internally how to respond to the stiffest economic sanctions they have ever seen

Trump said on Monday that Iran would be met with 'great force' if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East, adding that he was willing to have talks with Tehran 'when they're ready.'

Zarif scoffed at the idea on Tuesday.

'We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises,' he told CNN. 

'We engaged, we acted in good faith, we negotiated. We reached a deal. What the United States is saying is that we make a deal, whatever we can get [from] you in the negotiations through the deal is fine. Whatever we cannot get [from] you, we'll come back to try to get you. This is not the way serious countries deal with each other.'

Reacting to Trump's decision to send the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and its carrier battle group northward through the Arabian Sea and toward the Persian Gulf, Zarif suggested his country's 3-million-strong armed forces could make Trump pay a steep price. 

'We have said very clearly that we will not be the party to begin escalation, but we will defend ourselves,' he said.

'Now, having all these military assets in a small waterway is in and of itself prone to accident, particularly when you have people who are interested in accidents. So extreme prudence is required, and we believe that the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,' Zarif concluded. 

Trump took a firm position with Iran on Sunday, tweeting that '[i]f Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!'

Zarif fired back on Twitter, claiming that Trump 'hopes to achieve what Alexander [the Great], Genghis [Khan] & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone.'

'#EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won't 'end Iran'. #NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect—it works!' he wrote.

Trump was suggesting a softer approach just two weeks ago, telling reporters at the White House that 'I'd like to see them call me.'

'What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal. ... We're not looking to hurt Iran,' Trump said then. 'I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy. But they should call, and if they do, we're open to talk to them.'

In Tehran on Tuesday, Rouhani compared his nation's current state of chaos to its 1980-era war against Iraq, when hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and said the government needed powers to manage the economy today similar to those it had at that time.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right) is asking Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for broader power to manage the Iranian economy, citing a Trump-led 'economic war'

Iran has quadrupled its ability to produce uranium lately, meaning it could quickly exceed stockpile limits set under the Obama-era nuclear deal, which it has threatened to tear up after Trump backed out (file photo)

'In no earlier period have we faced today's problems in banking and oil sales, so we need everyone to concentrate and feel the conditions of economic war,' Rouhani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Iran set up fast-track courts last year after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for 'swift and just' legal action to confront an 'economic war' by foreign enemies.

On Tuesday, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said one of the courts had sentenced 10 businessmen to up to 20 years in jail on charges including 'economic sabotage', the semi-official news agency Fars reported. Iran executed at least three businessmen for economic crimes last year.

Rouhani won two landslide elections in Iran on promises to ease its international isolation. But Trump's decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal has helped ensure that Iranians have felt little or no economic benefit from Rouhani's policies.

The rial currency lost about 60 percent of its value in 2018 under the threat of the revived U.S. sanctions, disrupting Iran´s foreign trade and boosting annual inflation.

That has provoked sporadic demonstrations against corruption, with some protesters chanting anti-government slogans. Iran blames the United State and other foes for economic sabotage and stoking the domestic unrest.

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