(Reuters/Jacquelyn Martin)

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with local media in India on Wednesday that the United States had done everything it could to de-escalate tensions with Iran.

"If there is conflict, if there is war, if there is a kinetic activity, it will be because the Iranians made that choice. I hope that they do not," Pompeo told broadcaster India Today from New Delhi, where he is on an official visit.

(U.S. Air Force/TSgt. Dana Flamer)

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.

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An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.

While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.

At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.

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The owner of one of the two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman said the crew saw "flying objects" just before the ship was hit, seeming to contract a narrative from the U.S. government suggesting mines were involved.

Yutaka Katada, the chief executive of Japanese shipping company Kokuka Sangyo, discussed the incident with reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

He said sailors on the Kokuka Courageous saw the objects above the water, and suggested they could be bullets, The Associated Press reported.

This seems to contradict the account given by the U.S. military, which said it saw what it suspects is an unexploded limpet mine on the side of the ship.

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With the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a gaggle of B-52 Stratofortress bombers flexing their muscles in the Middle East, lawmakers are mounting yet another effort to repeal the post-9/11 legislation that could be used as a potential legal justification for a military conflict with Iran.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted along party lines to add an amendment to the annual defense budget that would roll back the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that, passed just days after the September 11th attacks, provided a legislative blank check for the U.S. military to pursue terror groups around the world.

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AP Photo/Fernando Llano.

It may be too soon for your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent to submit an embed request for Operation Venezuela Libre, but the Pentagon is certainly thinking about what's going on south of the border.

On April 30, it appeared as though Venezuela's dictator Nicolas Maduro was about to fall when opposition leader Juan Guaidó appealed to Venezuelan armed forces to join him.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Maduro the next day that "military action" in Venezuela is possible — but when all was said and done, more was said and done.

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