The Trump administration says military action against Iran could be possible should US sanctions against the country fail to curb Tehran from threatening Washington's interests.
The threat by Brian Hook, the US State Department's director of policy planning and head of Iran Action Group, on Thursday came a day after Tehran asserted that it did not seek a war with any other nation.
"We have been very clear with the Iranian regime that we will not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened," Hook said.
"I think right now, while we have the military option on the table, our preference is to use all of the tools that are at our disposal diplomatically," he said.
He was speaking at a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, DC in response to a question on possible next steps the US could take against Iran in its maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Hook spoke at an event held to display pieces of what he claimed were Iranian weapons and military equipment handed over to the US by Saudi Arabia.
Outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley held a similar event in the same location last November, displaying what she alleged scraps of a missile given by Iran to Yemen's Houthis.
The show drew ridicule from many observers who questioned the authenticity of the claims made by a diplomat with no knowledge of military matters.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter then that Iran would not print the “Iranian Standard Institute logo” on its missiles as was the case concerning the “evidence” displayed by the US.
“Try fabricating 'evidence' again,” he said, pointing out that a destroyed missile would not “land fully assembled.”
On Thursday, US media questioned the timing of the event, saying it was an attempt to shift the narrative away from Saudi Arabia, which has come under intense scrutiny over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
It came as the Senate on Wednesday advanced a resolution that would end US military support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen in a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump.
Hook tried to dispel those questions, saying there "isn’t anything tied to what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.”
He also sought to press back on criticisms that the display was a political stunt by the Trump administration that could increase tensions in the region.
"This is simply putting out in broad daylight Iran’s missiles and small arms and rockets and UAVs and drones," he said.
On Wednesday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei stressed that the Iranian Armed Forces have to develop their capabilities to deter any potential aggressor. The Leader, however, said the Islamic Republic is not after a war with any country.
The US has stepped up its pressure on Iran under the Trump administration. Back in May, the US left a multi-lateral nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic and imposed sanctions lifted under the agreement.
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