The White House has again denied it had plans to invade Iran, emphasising diplomacy with the Islamic republic and asserting great "respect, admiration and affection for the people of Iran."
"Let me reassure you and everybody else - We're not planning on invading Iran," spokesman Tony Snow said with evident frustration at stubborn speculation that an imposing US buildup in the Gulf means war with Tehran.
"Instead, the strategy continues to be the use of diplomacy as a way of putting pressure on the regime in Tehran" on issues like its nuclear programme, the spokesman told reporters.
"This government has a lot of respect, admiration and affection for the people of Iran," said Snow, who reiterated US plans to hit alleged Iranian and Syrian support for insurgents attacking US forces in Iraq.
"When it comes to people on Iraqi soil trying to kill Americans, trying to move arms that are going to be used to kill Americans or innocent Iraqis, it is a matter of military necessity to confront them and take them on," he said.
"When you have the presence of Iranians on Iraqi soil killing Americans, that is provocative," said the spokesman.
US President George W Bush announced last week he had ordered a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf and announced the deployment of a Patriot missile defence battalion to the region to protect allies against potential Iranian missile strikes.
In a speech unveiling his new strategy for Iraq, Bush also vowed that US forces would "seek out and destroy" any networks funneling weapons or fighters from Syria or Iran into Iraq.