Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Iran a “major destabilizing force in the Middle East” and warned Tehran’s hardline mullahs that the US would do what it takes to protect American interests.
“What we’ve seen from the Iranians is increased threats. So we’ve done all the right things to increase our security posture to the best of our ability. But we also want to make sure that we had deterrent forces in place,” Pompeo told CNBC, according to a transcript of a weekend interview released Monday.
The US has sent forces — including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers — to the Middle East in a move that officials said was intended to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
“So in the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest — whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East — we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way,” Pompeo said. “Iran is the major destabilizing influence in the Middle East and we aim to fix that.”
America’s top diplomat also complained that Iran was “sending forces” to Venezuela to prop up dictator Nicolas Maduro.
But, he stressed, the US was not looking to start another war in the region while fighting jihadis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“Our aim is not war. Our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iran leadership,” he said, adding that President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuke deal and imposition of tough sanctions were putting pressure on the country’s theocratic leaders.
“President Trump is determined to change that behavior from Islamic Republic of Iran.
”On Sunday, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said the US military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represented a target.“
“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.
“If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added, according to ISNA.
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