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Pentagon chief says Iranian threats ‘put on hold’

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, United States Strategic Command, deliver testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, April 11, 2019. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States’ response to alleged Iranian threats has “put on hold” potential attacks by Iran, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said.

“I think our steps were very prudent and we’ve put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans and that is what is extremely important,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on May 21.

He added that “the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians.”

Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

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Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.

There have been growing concerns of a possible military conflict with the United States, which this month beefed up its military presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing ” imminent threats” from Iran.

Tehran has dismissed the U.S. allegations.

Both sides have said they do not want a war.

After he briefed members of Congress later on May 21, Shanahan said that Trump’s administration was seeking to deter Iran but not start a war.

“This is about deterrence, not about war. We are not about going to war,” the U.S. defense chief told reporters on Capitol Hill after exiting the closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Shanahan said that the United States had deterred possible attacks by “reposturing” forces to the region.

Late on May 20, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that he is seeking expanded, wartime executive powers to deal with an “economic war” being waged against the country by the United States, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Rohani cited the devastating war with Iraq from 1980-88, when a Supreme Council of War was able to bypass other branches to make decisions regarding the economy and the war effort.

“We need such powers today,” he said.

The Iranian president said that he favored talks and diplomacy to deescalate tensions with Washington but not under the current conditions.

“Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Trump said that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East.

He also said that if Tehran wants to negotiate, it will have to take the first step.

“Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready. In the meantime, their economy continues to collapse – very sad for the Iranian people!” the U.S. president tweeted.