The White House has contacted Swiss officials and given them a phone number for Iran to directly call US President Donald Trump as tensions rise between the two countries, CNN reported Friday.
“I’d like to see them call me,” Trump said Thursday, referring to the Iranians.
A source told CNN that the Swiss are unlikely to hand over the phone number to Iran unless they are asked to, and that Iran is unlikely to make such a request.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from the outlet.
The Pentagon said Friday that the US will move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East region to counter threats from Iran.
The department provided no details, but a defense official said the move comes after intelligence showed that the Iranians have loaded military equipment and missiles onto small boats. The official was not authorized to discuss the information publicly so spoke anonymously.
It was not clear whether the boats with missiles represented a new military capability that could be used against US forces or were only being moved to shore locations.
The US removed Patriot missile batteries from Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan late last year. It wasn’t clear if the batteries would go back to those countries. The Patriot air defense system is meant to intercept both incoming aircraft and long-range ballistic missiles.
Also on Friday, the US Maritime Administration warned that Iran could try to attack American commercial vessels, including oil tankers, Reuters reported.
US officials announced Sunday that they would rush an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region.
On Thursday, Trump said he sought talks with Iran.
“What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask.”
“We have information that you don’t want to know about,” Trump said. “They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places.”
Asked about the possibility of military conflict with Iran, the president said: “I guess you could say that always, right? I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don’t want to do anything.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday threatened a “swift and decisive” US response to any attack by Iran.
“The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.
In response to Pompeo, a top commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said the US “wouldn’t dare to launch military action against us.”
Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the United States Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters he would bring the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln through the Gulf’s sensitive Strait of Hormuz if need be.
“If I need to bring it inside the strait, I will do so,” Malloy said. “I’m not restricted in any way, I’m not challenged in any way, to operate her anywhere in the Middle East.”
NBC News reported Thursday night that in a rare occurrence last week, US national security adviser John Bolton gathered the nation’s top defense, intelligence and diplomatic officials at CIA headquarters to discuss developments on the Iranian front.
Iran on Wednesday said it would suspend some commitments under a 2015 nuclear accord rejected by Trump, frustrated that renewed US sanctions have prevented the country from enjoying the economic fruits of compliance with the deal.
The moves by the US have frightened some European allies as well as Trump’s Democratic rivals, who fear the administration is pushing for war based on overhyped intelligence.