Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Shanahan said recent US moves, including approval of the deployment of an aircraft carrier, bombers and 1,500 additional troops to the region, have so far succeeded in warding off a specific, looming attack on American forces, but the broader threat from Tehran remains unchallenged.
“I don’t see a change in any behaviour. I think the situation … still remains tense. It’s a high-threat environment. The Iranian threat to our forces in the region remains,” he said.
“People can question the veracity of the intelligence,” he said. “All I would say is, since that weekend, there have been ships that have been hit with mines, there have been [unmanned aerial vehicle] strikes, there have been rocket strikes in the proximity of the United States Embassy in Iraq. All of that activity has taken place since the 3rd, 4th and the 5th [of May].”
Shanahan told reporters that he also briefed lawmakers on the Iranian threat last week in response to criticism from Democrats that there is no concrete evidence of an Iranian threat, but conceded he was unable to provide a full picture of the situation on the ground.
“I spent a lot of time trying to balance how much can be shared and how much to protect. In a perfect world more is better, but I really need to protect the sources,” he said, adding that “nobody” in the President’s administration “wants a war.”
The Trump administration has taken a belligerent stance on Iran, pulling out of the hard-fought 2015 nuclear deal and imposing sanctions on the oil-rich country. Trump said the rationale is to pressure Iran into a new nuclear deal because the existing agreement has allegedly failed to stop the country from pursuing nuclear weapons development.