Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan Tuesday credited the deployment of U.S. military weaponry with preventing potential attacks by Iran or its proxies in the Middle East, an apparent break in rising tensions in the region that has seen an uptick in threats on both sides.
“We have put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans” by Iran or its allies, he told reporters at the Pentagon.
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“I just hope Iran is listening,” Shanahan added. “We’re in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran.”
He later added that the threats from Iran and its proxies haven’t been eliminated.
“There haven’t been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that the threats that we’ve previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region.”
Shanahan’s remarks come after the rush deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, B-52 bombers, Patriot air-defense missiles, and other assets to the Middle East over the past two weeks in response to what Shanahan had previously called “indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces” against U.S. interests in the region.
The comments come a day after President Donald Trump appeared to play down the imminence of the Iranian threat.
“We have no indication that anything’s happened or will happen,” he told reporters, although if Iran did attack U.S. interests, “it will be met obviously with great force.”
Senior national security officials, including Shanahan, are scheduled to brief both houses of Congress on the Iran threat intelligence in closed sessions this afternoon.
U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria had raised their readiness posture in anticipation of attacks by Iran-backed Iraqi groups, and over the weekend, a rocket was fired in the direction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. No one was hurt. One of Iran’s main surrogate groups in Iraq distanced itself from the rocket attack.