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Pentagon Chief Says Iranian Threats 'Put On Hold'

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (file photo)

The United States' response to alleged Iranian threats has “put on hold” potential attacks by Iran, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said.

"I think our steps were very prudent and we've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans and that is what is extremely important,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on May 21.

He added that "the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians."

Later in the day, Shanahan, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, are set to brief U.S. lawmakers on Iran.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.

There have been growing concerns of a possible military conflict with the United States, which this month beefed up its military presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing " imminent threats" from Iran.

Tehran has dismissed the U.S. allegations.

Both sides have said they do not want a war.

Late on May 20, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that he is seeking expanded, wartime executive powers to deal with an "economic war" being waged against the country by the United States, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Rohani cited the devastating war with Iraq from 1980-88, when a Supreme Council of War was able to bypass other branches to make decisions regarding the economy and the war effort.

"We need such powers today," he said.

The Iranian president said that he favored talks and diplomacy to deescalate tensions with Washington but not under the current conditions.

"Today's situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Trump said that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East.

He also said that if Tehran wants to negotiate, it will have to take the first step.

"Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready. In the meantime, their economy continues to collapse - very sad for the Iranian people!" the U.S. president tweeted.

With reporting by IRNA, AP, Reuters, and AFP