Patrick Shanahan on Iran

Patrick Shanahan became Acting Secretary of Defense on January 1, 2019, following the resignation of James Mattis. Shanahan had been serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration since July 2017. He previously worked for Boeing for more than three decades, most recently as the senior vice president for supply chain and operations. The following are his remarks on Iran in reverse chronological order. 


ShanahanACTING SECRETARY SHANAHAN:  Good afternoon, everybody.  We had a very good conversation with both the House and the Senate, and we heard feedback that they’d like more conversation.  They’d also like us to be more communicative with the American public, and we agreed to do more of that. 

Today I walked them through what the Department of Defense has been doing since May 3rd, when we received credible intelligence about threats to our interests in the Middle East and to American forces, and how we acted on that credible intelligence.  That intelligence has borne out in attacks, and I would say it’s also deterred attacks.  We have deterred attacks based on our re-posturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces.

Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.  We do not want the situation to escalate.  This is about deterrence, not about war – or not about going to war.  This is about continuing to protect our interests in the Middle East and conducting the missions that we are there to perform.

—May 21, 2019, at a press availability


“We have put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans.” 

“I just hope Iran is listening.” 

“We're in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran.”

“There haven't been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold.”

“That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region.”

—May 21, 2019, to reporters at the Pentagon via Politico