Comments by Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan come amid a war of words between Washington and Tehran as both sides accuse the other of dangerously ratcheting up tensions.

US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives to hold a classified briefing on Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs US Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, for members of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, US May 21, 2019.
US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives to hold a classified briefing on Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs US Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, for members of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, US May 21, 2019. (Reuters)

Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that the United States had "put on hold" the Iranian threat to its interests, following a spike in tensions that has seen the US dispatch bomber aircraft to the Gulf.

"I think our steps were very prudent and we've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," the acting defence secretary said, as he prepared to brief lawmakers on the regional tensions.

"I'd say we're in a period where the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians," Shanahan added.

The Pentagon accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf and dispatched B-52 bombers to the region May 7 after US intelligence reported Iranian "threats" to US and allied forces.

The nature of threat has remained vague, although it reportedly included sightings of missiles being loaded on Iranian dhows in the Gulf.

Several tankers in the Gulf, including two Saudis, were reportedly sabotaged as well.

Members of Congress, including some Republicans, have expressed skepticism about the intelligence, however, as well as worries about the potential for miscalculation.

"I really want to underscore the credibility of the intelligence," Shanahan said, adding that he would be giving lawmakers a more detailed briefing about it.

Asked later what he meant by putting the threat "on hold," Shanahan told reporters, "There haven't been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold."

"That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away," he said.

"Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."

TRT World's John Brain has more on the story.

Iran won't "bow"

President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday asserted that US President Donald Trump had retreated from earlier threats against Iran "after seeing the unity of the Iranian people". 

In comments broadcast on state television, Rouhani said that Iran would "not bow to bullying powers". 

"They thought they could undermine Iran, but in these difficult days of [US] sanctions, the country’s economy is still booming," he said. "Every day, a new economic project is inaugurated.” 

"US sanctions and pressure have made the lives of the Iranian people more difficult, but they have failed to break our steadfastness," Rouhani added.

Iraq to send delegations

Iraq is planning to send urgent delegations to the United States and Iran, its prime minister said on Tuesday, as Baghdad seeks to rein in soaring tensions between its top allies. 

Baghdad "will very soon send delegations to Tehran and Washington to push for calm", Adel Abdel Mahdi told journalists in the Iraqi capital.

Abdel Mahdi stressed the need to "avoid giving other parties the space to inflame the situation". 

"We will not allow Iraq to be a war zone or a launchpad for a war against any state," he said. 

Calming the situation would "serve both the interests of Iraq and its people and those of the region in general," he added. 

The premier said Iraq "does not have the option of distancing itself" from US-Iranian tensions, and said Baghdad was working with European and Arab states to calm the situation.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies