President Donald Trump has said in an interview that any action against Iran wouldn't involve "boots on the ground" and any conflict would be short-lived.
US President Donald Trump says he is "not talking boots on the ground" should military action be necessary against Iran, and said any conflict would not last long.
Asked if a war was brewing, Trump told Fox Business Network: "I hope we don't but we're in a very strong position if something should happen."
"I'm not talking boots on the ground," Trump said on Wednesday. "I'm just saying if something would happen, it wouldn't last very long."
The comments come just days after Trump cancelled air strikes minutes before impact, with allies warning that the increase in tensions since the US pulled out of a nuclear pact with Iran last year could accidentally lead to war.
Iran suggested it was just one day from breaching a threshold in the agreement that limited its stockpile of uranium, a move that would put pressure on European countries that have tried to remain neutral to pick sides.
The fate of the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for access to international trade, has been at the heart of the dispute that has escalated and taken on a military dimension in recent weeks.
Washington sharply tightened sanctions last month, aiming to bar all international sales of Iranian oil. It accuses Iran of being behind bomb attacks on ships in the Gulf, which it denies.
Last week, Iran shot down a US drone it said was in its air space, which Washington denied. Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes but called them off at the last minute, later saying too many people would have died.
Although the US and Iran both say they do not want war, last week's aborted US strikes have been followed by menacing rhetoric on both sides.
On Tuesday, Trump threatened the "obliteration" of parts of Iran if it struck US interests. President Hassan Rouhani, who normally presents Tehran's mild-mannered face, called White House policy "mentally retarded".
The stand-off creates a challenge for Washington which, after quitting the nuclear deal against the advice of European allies, is now seeking their support to force Iran to comply with it.
Over the past few weeks Iran has set a number of deadlines for European countries to protect its economy from the impact of US sanctions or see Tehran reduce compliance with the deal.
A spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said on Wednesday that one of those deadlines would expire the following day, with Iran potentially exceeding a limit imposed under the deal to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300kg.
Another threshold bars Iran from enriching uranium to a purity beyond 3.67 per cent fissile material. It has set a deadline of July 7 after which it could also breach that.
Any such moves would put European countries that oppose Trump's tactics under pressure to take action. They have tried to salvage the nuclear deal by promising to provide Tehran with economic benefits to offset the harm from US sanctions. But so far they have failed.
US officials say new sanctions are necessary to force Iran back to the negotiating table, and Trump is open to talks without pre-conditions. Iran says talks are impossible unless Washington lifts sanctions first.