JAKARTA, Indonesia — While tensions between the U.S. and Iran have intensified this month, the Trump administration does not seek war with Tehran, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Wednesday.
"When the president says he doesn't want a war with Iran, I think that is pretty clear," Shanahan told reporters traveling with him to Indonesia. "I don't think anyone wants a war with Iran," he added, saying that the U.S. had credible intelligence Tehran was preparing for an attack.
Shanahan's comments come on the heels of a U.S. military buildup in the Middle East. Earlier this month, the Pentagon deployed the USS Arlington, USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a Patriot missile defense battery, a U.S. Air Force bomber task force and approximately 1,500 troops to the region.
Last week, the Trump administration sidestepped Congress by approving arms sales to Gulf allies, citing Iranian threats. The move sparked concerns among lawmakers who fear the weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may be used against civilians in war-torn Yemen.
"I wish I could just hand over to you all the information and you'd feel very good about it," Shanahan said referring to the intelligence assessments that showed Iran was preparing for a strike. "The thing I would offer is that it was so credible that, we moved that quickly, it was a matter of hours. I would make the argument that it deterred attacks on our people in Iraq."
Earlier this month, Trump ordered new sanctions placed on Iranian metals, Tehran's largest non-petroleum-related source of export revenue.
The U.S. also took aim at Iranian oil by effectively ordering countries worldwide to stop buying Tehran's oil or face sanctions of their own.
Additionally, the U.S. designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Iran responded with threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about a third of the world's oil export vessels pass through.
When asked about these Iranian threats, Shanahan said the U.S. will continue to be the guarantor of free navigation in international waters. He added that Washington also has the "ability to defend ships in the Strait of Hormuz" if diplomacy were to fail.