Pompeo again blames Iran for tanker attacks but insists 'we don't want war'

Victoria Bekiempis in New York and agencies
Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

The United States does not want to go to war with Iran, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Sunday, following an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Pompeo reiterated that the US believes it was “unmistakable” that Iran was responsible for the attacks, in an interview with Fox News Sunday. He stressed a need for diplomacy and said American officials are reaching out to their foreign counterparts.

“President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war. We don’t want war,” he added.

The president has been accused of beating the drum of war with recent inflammatory statements against Iran.

Pompeo said intelligence officials have “lots of data, lots of evidence” tying Iran to alleged attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for Arab oil shipments to Asia. He gave no details.

He said that Washington will guarantee free navigation through vital shipping areas.

“The United States is going make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise that achieve that outcome,” Pompeo said.

US-Iran tensions are high following accusations by the Trump administration that Tehran carried out attacks last Thursday on the two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied having any role.

“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it,” said Pompeo, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming secretary of state.

Related: Saudi crown prince tells Iran: 'We won't hesitate to deal with any threat'

Pompeo said he did not want to discuss possible next steps the United State might take in response to last week’s developments.

“Iran will not get a nuke weapon. That’s the goal,” he said when asked about the possibility of Trump sending more US troops and military hardware to the region.

“I made a number of calls to colleagues around the world yesterday. I am confident that we will have partners that understand this threat,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s comments came after the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, spoke publicly for the first time since a second attack on Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, blaming its arch-rival Iran and vowing that Saudi Arabia “won’t hesitate to deal with any threat” to the kingdom’s interests.

According to an interview for the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, published on Sunday, Prince Mohammed said: “We do not want a war in the region … But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests.”

The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Sunday Britain was “almost certain” Iran was behind the oil tanker attacks, adding that London did not believe anyone else could have done it.

Hunt said: “The great risk of the situation we are in is both sides in this dispute think the other would not want a war.”

Related: Iran-US dispute grows over attacks on oil tankers in Gulf of Oman

The Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg criticized the Trump administration’s statements on Iran on Sunday.

“What we see out of the White House is something disturbingly reminiscent of the kind of accelerating drumbeat that got us into the war in Iraq,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Buttigieg also said on CBS’s Face the Nation that while “ there is certainly concern that this is consistent with a pattern of malignant behavior by Iran”, he worried “this appears to be part of an escalation where this administration might be leading us on a path to war that could get away from this White House very quickly.

“Look, it – it is nothing new for Iran to be acting in destabilized, destabilizing ways in their region,” Buttigieg said. “We see it quite a bit. The question is what are we going to do to make things more stable before the situation becomes uncontrollable.”