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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits MacDill Air Force Base to discuss tensions with Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the tensions in Iran at MacDill Air Force Base on Tuesday. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Published Jun. 18

TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.

Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.

The meeting focused on deterrence plans against Iran after U.S. officials blamed the country for two recent oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

"We are there to deter aggression," Pompeo said. "President [Donald] Trump does not want war."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that his country would not "wage war with any nation" but will stand against U.S. pressure.

Pompeo also addressed the decision by former Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to send 1,000 additional U.S. troops to the region for defense.

On Monday, a day before Shanahan stepped down from his Defense post citing personal reasons, Shanahan ordered the additional troops "to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests."

"We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats," he added in a statement.

On Tuesday, Trump named Army Secretary Mark Esper as the new Acting Secretary of Defense, replacing Shanahan about an hour after USA Today reported on a federal investigation into violence between Shanahan and his ex-wife.

At MacDill, Pompeo's message to families awaiting news about the new round of deployment was to thank them for their service and commitment to the country without going into further detail.

The Department of State declined to comment on how coordination with the Department of Defense will go in the wake of Shanahan's departure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Ileana Najarro at inajarro@tampabay.com. Follow @IleanaNajarro

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