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Pentagon to Submit Plans to Send Troops to Middle East to Counter Iran

Pentagon to Submit Plans to Send Troops to Middle East to Counter Iran

Thursday, 23 May, 2019 - 11:45
US soldiers on patrol in northern Syria in November. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said, according to The Associated Press.

The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it's not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces.

Officials said the move is not in response to any new threat from Iran but is aimed at reinforcing security in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.

Thursday morning's meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer, and it wasn't clear if a decision would be made during the session.

Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America's troop presence in the region.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers the US is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while accusing Tehran of threatening US interests in the Mideast.

Shanahan told reporters: "Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation."

In early May, the US accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Mideast and sent four B-52 bomber aircraft to the region. The Pentagon also decided to move a Patriot air-defense missile battery to an undisclosed country in the area.

The Trump administration has evacuated nonessential personnel from Iraq, amid unspecified threats the administration said are linked to Iranian-backed militias in the country.

On Sunday, a rocket was fired into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling US Embassy. There were no injuries and no group claimed responsibility, but the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad — which is home to Iran-backed militias.

Last year, Trump abruptly pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production. He also has reimposed punishing sanctions that have crippled Tehran's economy, and designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in April.

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