WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday threatened a “swift and decisive” US response to any attack by Iran, in the latest of a series of escalating statements and actions.
“The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve,” he said.
The United States has already announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region, saying it had information of plans for Iranian-backed attacks.
An American official said the decision to send in more forces was based in part on intelligence indications that Iran had moved short-range ballistic missiles by boat in waters off its shores.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not clear whether the boats with missiles represented a new military capability that could be used against US forces or were only being moved to shore locations.
The moves have frightened some European allies as well as President Donald Trump’s Democratic rivals, who fear the administration is pushing for war based on overhyped intelligence.
Pompeo, who earlier canceled a trip to Greenland to rush back to Washington, however said: “We do not seek war.”
“But Iran’s 40 years of killing American soldiers, attacking American facilities, and taking American hostages is a constant reminder that we must defend ourselves,” said Pompeo, referencing the 1979 Islamic revolution that transformed Iran from close US ally to sworn foe.
Meanwhile Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the United States Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters he would bring the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln through the Gulf’s sensitive Strait of Hormuz if need be.
“If I need to bring it inside the strait, I will do so,” Malloy said. “I’m not restricted in any way, I’m not challenged in any way, to operate her anywhere in the Middle East.”
Iran on Wednesday said it would suspend some commitments under a 2015 nuclear accord rejected by Trump, frustrated that renewed US sanctions have prevented the country from enjoying the economic fruits of compliance with the deal.
Earlier Thursday, Trump said he sought talks with Iran.
“What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask.”
Trump also said Washington was not looking for a conflict with Tehran, but refused to divulge why the carrier had been dispatched.
“We have information that you don’t want to know about,” Trump said, according to Reuters. “They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places.”
Asked about the possibility of a military confrontation, he said “I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen,”