ORLANDO, Fla. — On Monday, Iranian state TV reported that the country had detained 17 Iranian citizens it says were working for the CIA. Hours later, in an interview with Eyewitness News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed those assertions.
“Take anything Iran says with a grain of salt. They have lied about so many things over so many years,” said Pompeo. “I have seen this reporting. I am not free to comment on intelligence but suffice it to say everyone should be skeptical of claims made by the Islamic State of Iran."
In recent weeks, Iran has increased its posture in the Gulf of Oman by shooting down a U.S. drone and seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
“We are building out a coalition that will patrol the Strait of Hormuz to keep those shipping lanes, those sea lanes, open," said Pompeo.
Keeping the shipping lanes open could require military actions, as it did in 1988 when the U.S. sank or damaged half of Iran’s fleet in retaliation for Iran mining the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. But, while military action may be required to keep the international waters open, Pompeo stressed the administration is not looking for direct combat.
“The president has been clear: We don't want war with Iran. We simply want them to stop engaging in terror activities around the world. They can't continue to build out their nuclear weapons program," said Pompeo.
In addition to its actions in the Gulf, Iran has begun enriching uranium beyond the limits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
In May 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA. European nations stayed in the deal, leading Iran to hold off on breaking the compact. But, with Europe unable to work around the U.S. sanctions on Iran, the country has adopted a much more aggressive stance.
Amid this escalation, Pompeo said that, as with North Korea, President Donald Trump is prepared to meet with Iran’s leaders.
"The president has said he is happy to speak to the ayatollah, the leadership in Iran, with no preconditions,” said Pompeo.
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