US Defense Secretary Esper: US seeks diplomacy with Iran, but must de-escalate first

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN on Tuesday that the US wants to de-escalate the current tensions with Iran, but the country is ready to finish any war that could be started. (Screenshot/Fox News)
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Updated 09 January 2020

US Defense Secretary Esper: US seeks diplomacy with Iran, but must de-escalate first

  • Esper defended the intelligence signaling an "imminent threat" from Soleimani
  • Suggested the US military would not violate the laws of armed conflict

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN on Tuesday that the US wants to de-escalate the current tensions with Iran, but the country is ready to finish any war that could be started.

"We are not looking to start a war with Iran but we are prepared to finish one," he said. "What we'd like to see is the situation de-escalated."

Esper defended the intelligence signaling an "imminent threat" from Soleimani that he and other senior US officials have cited to justify the strike, saying it was persuasive.

"The threat was being orchestrated by Soleimani," Esper said. "I think it was only a matter of days, certainly no more than weeks" before an attack.

Esper suggested on Monday that the US military would not violate the laws of armed conflict by striking Iranian cultural sites, a move threatened by President Donald Trump.

Asked about the issue again on Tuesday, Esper said he was confident that Trump "will only give us legal orders.

"We do not violate the laws of armed conflict," Esper said.

Targeting cultural sites with military action is considered a war crime under international law, including a UN Security Council resolution supported by the Trump administration in 2017 and the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.


Turkey’s Erdogan says no agreement yet on four-way Syria summit

Updated 25 February 2020

Turkey’s Erdogan says no agreement yet on four-way Syria summit

  • Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to Idlib to head off the campaign driven by Russian air raid

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that there was not yet full agreement on holding a proposed March 5 summit with Russia, France and Germany on the conflict in Syria’s Idlib, but he may meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin on that date.
Syrian government forces are pushing to retake the last large rebel-held region in Syria after nine years of war and nearly a million Syrians, mostly women and children, have been displaced by the fighting since early December.
At a news conference in Ankara before departing on a trip to Azerbaijan, Erdogan said that a Russian delegation was set to come to Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the Idlib situation.
“There is no full agreement yet between (French President Emmanuel) Macron ... (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel, and Putin,” he said. Macron and Merkel have both urged Putin to end the conflict, concerned about the humanitarian situation.
On Saturday, Erdogan said that Turkey had set out a “road map” for Syria after calls with the three leaders, while the Kremlin has said it was discussing the possibility of holding a four-way summit.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to Idlib to head off the campaign driven by Russian air raids and 17 members of the Turkish forces have been killed. Turkey already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot handle another wave and has closed its borders.