While it is “unmistakable” that Iran was responsible for the attacks on two tankers last week, the United States does not want to go to war with Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, June 16.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said: “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war. We don’t want war.” But he added that Washington will guarantee free navigation through vital shipping areas.
“The United States is going make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise that achieve that outcome,” Pompeo said.
U.S.-Iran tensions are high following accusations by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that Tehran carried out attacks last Thursday on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran has denied having any role.
Pompeo said intelligence officials had “lots of data, lots of evidence” that Iran was responsible. Pressed for specifics, Pompeo pointed to footage that had already been released by the United States.
“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it,” said Pompeo, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming secretary of state.
American officials say the footage shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from a Japanese tanker. The tanker’s crew gave an apparently different account, saying “flying objects” targeted the vessel.
Pompeo said the administration had shared the video and other evidence with Germany and other nations.
Pompeo said he did not want to discuss possible next steps the United States might take in response to last week’s developments.
“Iran will not get a nuke weapon. That’s the goal,” he said when asked about the possibility of Trump sending more American troops and military hardware to the region.
“I made a number of calls to colleagues around the world yesterday. I am confident that we will have partners that understand this threat,” Pompeo said.
Iran Tried to Shoot Down U.S. Drone
Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. drone arriving at the scene of two fuel tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, according to a Fox News report that cited a senior U.S. official.
Iran fired a missile targeting an American MQ-9 Reaper drone shortly after it arrived, in response to a distress signal from the tanker Front Altair, which was damaged in an attack that Washington blames on Tehran. The missile missed the drone.
The unidentified official told Fox News that the tanker sent out a distress signal at 6:12 a.m. local time and the unmanned drone arrived eight minutes later.
The missile attack occurred 25 minutes after the drone arrived. Fox News cited a military source to report that the missile was a modified SA-7 fired from mainland Iran.
According to another anonymous Fox News source, Iran-backed Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. MQ-9 drone in recent days.
Fox News previously reported that Iranian gunboats surrounded a rescue vessel carrying the crew of one of the tankers and forced the surrender of the crew.
The United States also blamed Iran for attacks on four tankers roughly a month prior to the Gulf of Oman attacks.
“This is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests, and they should be understood in the context of 40 years of unprovoked aggression against freedom-loving nations,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a news conference, shortly after the tanker attacks.
Iran threatened to cut the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz on April 22, shortly after the United States imposed the strictest sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports intending to cripple the Islamic regime’s oil sector.
Three weeks later, on May 12, Iran attacked four oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, according to the White House. Washington also blames Tehran for drone strikes on two oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia on May 14.
On June 12, the day before the latest tanker attacks, an Iran proxy group fired a ballistic missile at a Saudi civilian airport, injuring 26 people.
“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Pompeo said.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the multinational Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed tough sanctions on the Islamic regime in Tehran.
Washington demands that Iran permanently extinguishes its nuclear weapons program, stops the development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, terminates its support of radical Islamic terror groups, and puts an end to its malign activities in the Middle East. Pompeo announced the demands in his first major speech as secretary of state in May last year.
Both Washington and Tehran have said they aren’t seeking to start another war in the Middle East.
Ivan Pentchoukov, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.