US President Donald Trump may have plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities as early as next month, senior Australian government sources said, according to a Thursday report, though Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had “no reason” to believe a strike was imminent.
Sources said that Australian and British intelligence services would be involved in identifying targets for a strike, Australia’s ABC news reported.
However, the sources told the paper that Australia would not actively participate in an attack on Iran.
“Developing a picture is very different to actually participating in a strike,” a source told ABC.
“Providing intelligence and understanding as to what is happening on the ground so that the Government and allied governments are fully informed to make decisions is different to active targeting,” he said.
Turnbull appeared to reject the report, saying it was “speculation” and he had “no reason” to believe a strike was imminent.
“I saw a story today claiming that on the ABC, and citing senior Australian government sources,” he said. “It’s speculation, it is citing anonymous sources.”
He said that the ABC report information did not come from any of the relevant senior government officials.
“President Trump has made his views very clear to the whole world, but this story … has not benefited from any consultation with me, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister or the Chief of the Defense Force,” he said.
Australia and the UK partner with the US in the “Five Eyes” intelligence program, along with Canada and New Zealand, though the latter are unlikely to play any role in an attack on Iran, the sources told ABC.
On Sunday Trump issued an intense warning against Tehran, threatening that it would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever seen before.”
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
The response came after Rouhani earlier Sunday issued his own warning to the US leader not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars.”
However, Trump tempered the threat Tuesday, saying “we’re ready to make a real deal” with Iran.
The back-and-forth came after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal forged under former President Barack Obama.
The move sets in motion a renewal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic that were removed once the landmark accord was implemented in January 2016.
Those sanctions are now set to be reimposed in November, causing more than 50 international firms to exit the Iranian market, according to State Department policy and planning director Brian Hook.
Eric Cortellessa and Associated Press contributed to this report.