WASHINGTON – Anything Iran says should be taken "with a grain of salt,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with a local TV station on July 22 while on a work visit to Orlando, Florida.
Asked to address Tehran’s claim of having busted a CIA-affiliated spy ring, Pompeo said "everyone should be deeply skeptical."
Pompeo continued: "They’ve [Iran] lied about so many things over so many years."
Iran said that on July 18 it had arrested 17 suspects on suspicion of spying on behalf of the United States and sentenced some of them to death.
"The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas... where they collected classified information," an Intelligence Ministry statement said.
U.S. President Donald Trump also denied Tehran's claims.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on July 22, Trump said that Tehran had "disrespected" the United States, which is making it "harder" for his administration to find the will to make a deal with Iran to replace the 2015 nuclear accord that the president unilaterally pulled out of last year.
Pompeo said Washington was building a coalition to patrol the Strait of Hormuz to keep shipping lanes open.
Japan's top government spokesman said on July 23 that Tokyo wasn't considering sending forces for the maritime coalition, following U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton's visit to the country.
Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker near the strait three days ago and shot down a U.S. drone in the area on June 20.
"We don't want war with Iran," Pompeo said.
Instead, the United States wants Iran to "stop engaging in terror activities around the world."
Pompeo said the United States wants to "change the behavior" of Iran’s leadership and that Tehran "can’t continue to build out their nuclear weapons program."
Iran says it no longer feels bound by a 2015 accord whereby it promised to limit its nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits.
On July 1, Tehran said it had amassed more than the permitted amount of low-enriched uranium.
Last year, the United States -- one of six world powers that signed on to the accord -- unilaterally pulled out of the agreement.
Washington has since imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran's economy by targeting its crucial oil and financial industries.
Most recently, Washington imposed sanctions on a Chinese firm and its chief executive for "knowingly purchasing or acquiring oil from Iran."
The Zhuhai Zhenrong Company will have its property and interests in property that are in the United States blocked.
The CEO, Youmin Li, is banned from entering the United States.