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Why Europe is caught in the middle of U.S.-Iran tensions

Although tensions between the U.S. and Iran are high, officials from both countries insist they don't want a military confrontation. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will resist sanctions but not wage war, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called sending more U.S. troops to the region a "deterrent." Meanwhile, U.S. allies in Europe are sharply divided on Iran. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    U.S.-Iran tensions are still running high, amid new military moves, but both sides are playing down a possible confrontation. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani insisted today that his nation will not wage war. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that sending more troops to the region is a deterrent, not an escalation.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin takes it from there.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Washington today, the U.S. and Europe's top diplomats presented a united front, but they are divide sharply on Iran.

    E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini's visit came less than 24 hours after that troop announcement, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as strictly defensive.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    President Trump doesn't want war, and we will continue to communicate that message, while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But while the administration's policy is maximum pressure, Mogherini on Monday urged maximum restraint.

  • Federica Mogherini:

    What we wouldn't like to see is a military escalation in the region. We think that would be extremely dangerous.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. blames Iran for the most recent escalation by attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The military released these photos it says showing Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps sailors removing an unexploded Iranian mine from one of the tankers.

    In an interview with "TIME" magazine, President Trump called the attacks — quote — "very minor," but that he would — quote — "certainly go to war" to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

  • President Donald Trump:

    This was a horrible one-sided deal.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In 2018, President Trump abandoned the deal limiting Iran's nuclear program. Today, U.S. sanctions have dramatically reduced Iranian oil exports and revenue. Under pressure economically, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is publicly defiant.

  • Hassan Rouhani (through translator):

    Despite all of the Americans' efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Iran vows to exceed caps imposed by the nuclear deal on enrichment and stockpiles if Europe can't deliver economic benefits. European diplomats, who met yesterday in Luxembourg, say they are caught between the U.S. pressure campaign and trying to pressure Iran to stay in the deal, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday.

  • Angela Merkel (through translator):

    In regard to the nuclear deal, we are pushing Iran to abide by it. If that is not the case, there will, of course, be consequences.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But analysts say Europe will struggle to fulfill Iran's demands. And more U.S. troops will soon arrive in the region, as tensions continue to escalate.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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