May 9 (UPI) -- The United States does not want to go to war with Iran but will retaliate if the country attacks American citizens or interests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
"The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against U.S. interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive U.S. response," he said in a statement.
He warned Iran not to confuse U.S. restraint for a lack of resolve.
"To date, the regime's default option has been violence, and we appeal to those in Tehran who see a path to a prosperous future through de-escalation to modify the regime's behavior," he said. "As President [Donald] Trump stated yesterday, he 'looks forward to someday meeting with leaders of Iran in order to work out an agreement and, very importantly, taking steps to give Iran the future it deserves.' "
The statement comes in response to the Middle Eastern country having engaged in "an escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks," Pompeo said while offering no specifics of the Tehran threats. However, U.S. officials have said Iran has been moving short-range ballistic missiles on boats through the Persian Gulf in preparation to possibly attack U.S. forces.
In response, the Trump administration deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in order to send a "clear, unmistakable" message that it would respond to any aggression, White House national security adviser John Bolton said.
Tensions between the two countries have ratcheted up since late last month when Trump canceled temporary waivers that enabled countries such as Iraq, Turkey and China to purchase Persian oil without violating sanctions.
Pompeo said following the announcement of the move that its purpose was to "deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East."
On Wednesday, Iran then partially pulled out of the seven-nation 2015 nuclear deal, demanding that the other signatories either pull out of the deal or purchase its oil, an ultimatum the EU wholly rejected.
Trump pulled the United States from the deal on May 8, 2018.
"The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech announcing Iran's decision. "But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic."
On Thursday, Pompeo said, "we do not seek war. But Iran's 40 years of killing American soldiers, attacking American facilities and taking American hostages is a constant reminder that we must defend ourselves."