At a news conference on Friday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis denied reports that Washington was evaluating a strike against Tehran.
"I have no idea where the Australian news people got that information," he said; regarding the report, he added that "frankly, it's fiction."
The statement comes after ABC News disclosed America's plans to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, citing senior Australian government figures. According to ABC, Australian and British forces would be deployed to help identify possible targets.
The report emerged at a time of increasingly hostile relations between Washington and Tehran. On Sunday, US President Donald Trump fired off a late-night all-caps rant on Twitter, alarming Iranian President Rouhani about "consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered" should Iran "threaten the US again", apparently in response to Rouhani's warning against alleged US attempts to destabilize Iran's government.
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) 23 июля 2018 г.
The Islamic Republic has been under increased pressure from Washington ever since May, when Donald Trump announced his decision to scrap the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the US continues to slap the country with new ones. The move, which prompted investors to pull out of the country, has been widely criticized by Tehran and other deal signatories, including the EU and China, who reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.