US President Donald Trump announced on Friday he had ordered 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, amid growing tension between the United States and Iran.
“We want to have protection in the Middle East”, Trump said in a statement to the White House.
“We will send a relatively small number of soldiers, most of them for protection”.
The announcement comes at a time when already strained relations between Washington and Tehran, an escalation since the beginning of this month after Iran suspended some of its obligations under an agreement on its nuclear program was concluded in 2015, a year after Washington’s withdrawal from it while the Trump administration tightened sanctions on the Iranian economy.
The Pentagon said Thursday that Washington was considering sending additional troops as part of a plan to improve the “security” of US forces in the Middle East.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied the figures in US newspapers.
“The figure is not 10,000, not five thousand.
This is not accurate”.
The Pentagon sent to the region an aircraft carrier, a warship, B-52 bombers and a Patriot missile battery after White House national security adviser John Bolton reported there were “disturbing signs of escalation” by Tehran.
Two US officials said on Wednesday that the Pentagon is considering a request from the military to send about 5,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid growing tension with Iran.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wilburger said Friday that additional US troops sent to the Middle East to protect against the “Iranian threat” would not be deployed in Syria or Iraq.
“It will not be published in Syria or Iraq”, Wilburger told reporters, declining at the same time to say exactly where the troops would be deployed, noting that the United States “has several bases in the region”.
The Pentagon said US troop buildup in the Middle East was defensive and Washington was not seeking war with Iran.
As part of the surge in US forces in the Middle East, air and missile defense systems will be sent to the region as well as reconnaissance units, he added.
Tension between Iran and the United States is mounting, and concern over a possible conflict erupts at a time when Washington is tightening sanctions and political pressure on Tehran and intensifying its military presence in the region.
The United States sent military reinforcements to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials say is Iranian threats to US forces and interests in the region.
Earlier, the New York Times reported that the administration of President Donald Trump was considering sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked US forces or accelerated the production of nuclear weapons, according to a proposal by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, but Trump denied this.
On Friday, May 10, the US military issued a stern warning that Iran and its agents might target merchant ships in the Red Sea and Bab Al Mandab, Reuters reported.
The General Staff of the Iranian armed forces warned of the names of the enemies of any possible hostile movements, stressing that it will face a painful and regrettable response.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran and the Iranian people were bigger and bigger than anyone could threaten.
Tension between Iran and the United States has grown since Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2015.