The United States must have the capability to respond to any Iranian attack on US interests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
He spoke at the Florida headquarters of US Central Command, which oversees the US forces in the Middle East, a day after the US said it was sending another 1,000 troops to the region in response to what it called hostile behavior by Tehran.
That deployment should “convince the Islamic government of Iran that we are serious and to deter them from further aggression in the region,” Pompeo said.
He added that his visit to Tampa was designed to “achieve the strategic objectives” set forth by President Donald Trump.
“But we can’t do that without making sure we have the capability to respond if Iran makes a bad decision” and opts to “go after an American, or an American interest, or to continue to proliferate its nuclear weapons program,” said Pompeo.
He insisted “President Trump does not want war.” The United States has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, an accusation Tehran denies as baseless.
The Pentagon released new images on Monday that it said showed Iran was behind the attack on one of the ships.
Last month four ships including three oil tankers were attacked off the United Arab Emirates. The US blamed Iran, which denied responsibility.
In May of last year, Trump withdrew the US from the multiparty accord under which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Trump reinstated tough economic sanctions in an effort to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement.
Pompeo said Tuesday this campaign of maximum pressure is proving to be “very effective,” although other countries fear the heightened tensions could lead to armed conflict.