Despite pulling the United States out of a comprehensive deal covering Iran’s nuclear programme just over a year ago, President Donald Trump said this week that preventing Tehran building a bomb was the main aim of sanctions and pressure.
When he first pulled America from the JCPOA – signed by Iran and world powers in 2015 – Mr Trump and his administration have said that just tackling Tehran's nuclear enrichment was not sufficient and a new deal was needed to cover the Islamic republic's regional policies and support of militias.
On Monday night, Mr Trump said that he believes he could make a deal with Iran.
"I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that's very smart of them, and I think that's a possibility to happen," Mr Trump said during a news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
"It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership," Mr Trump said. "We aren't looking for regime change – I just want to make that clear. We are looking for no nuclear weapons."
In Tehran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons, which its supreme leader had banned in an edict, adding on Twitter that US policies were hurting the Iranian people and causing regional tensions.
"Actions—not words—will show whether or not that's @realDonaldTrump's intent," Zarif said.
President Hassan Rouhani said in October the United States was seeking "regime change" in Iran, adding that the current US administration was the most hostile that the Islamic Republic had faced in its four decades.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a press conference on Tuesday that Tehran "does not presently believe in" mediation. He added that he didn’t believe there was the possibility of clashes taking place.
But Mr Mousavi warned that if sanctions relief is not offered Tehran "will with severity take the next steps", meaning it could turn its back on more substantial parts of the 2015 accord.
Mr Trump said that the current sanctions policy was working.
"They were fighting in many locations," Mr Trump said of Iran. "Now they are pulling back because they have serious economic problems."
The US announced new sanctions on Iranian export of industrial metals on Wednesday and threatened further action unless Tehran "fundamentally" changed its behaviour.
An executive order issued by Mr Trump covers Iran's iron, steel, aluminium, and copper sectors, the Islamic Republic's largest non-petroleum-related sources of export revenue and 10 percent of its export economy, a statement from the White House said.
Tensions have risen between Iran and the United States after this month's attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region.
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group and bombers to the and announced plans to deploy 1,500 troops to the Middle East, prompting fears of a conflict.
Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said on Saturday that the United States had "deep and serious" intelligence on threats posed by Iran, without providing details.
Mr Bolton, who has spearheaded an increasingly hawkish US policy on Iran, described recent attacks on tankers off the United Arab Emirates and a pipeline pumping station in Saudi Arabia, as well as a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone, as "manifestations of concern" about Iran.
Iran has distanced itself from the attacks and on Sunday, Mr Zarif said his country will defend itself against any military or economic aggression.