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WASHINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that while the threats from Iran in the Middle East remained high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had “put on hold” the potential for attacks on Americans.
It was unclear exactly what Shanahan meant and Pentagon officials could not immediately clarify whether the threat from Iran had been diminished.
“There haven’t been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold,” Shanahan told reporters.
“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,” Shanahan said.
The U.S. military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.
Rhetoric between Tehran and Washington has escalated in recent weeks as the United States tightened sanctions with what it said was the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Monday that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East. U.S. government sources said Washington strongly suspected Shi’ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“I just hope Iran is listening. We’re in the region to address many things, but it is not to go to war with Iran,” Shanahan said earlier on Tuesday.
He added that it was a period where the threat remained high and the focus was on making sure there was “no miscalculations by the Iranians.” (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)