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Pentagon to present Trump with plans to send 10,000 extra troops to Middle East

The Independent logo The Independent 23/05/2019 Adam Forrest
a group of people standing in a military uniform © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The Pentagon expected on Thursday to present the White House with plans to send up to 10,000 extra troops to the Middle East to bolster forces against potential threats from Iran, officials said.

The morning meeting between defence chiefs and Trump administration officials comes as tensions continue to simmer with Tehran.

Any move to deploy more forces would signal a shift for Donald Trump, who has repeatedly emphasised the need to reduce the US presence in the region. It’s unclear whether the White House might approve all or some of the requested forces.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press the possible surge is not in response to any new threat from Iran.

They said troops would be defensive forces and discussions include additional Patriot missile systems, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iranian activities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Mr Trump was currently evaluating the forces required in the region “every day”. He told Fox News: “We’re evaluating the risks, making sure that we have it right.”

US officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats but indicated missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran’s shore.

Sending more troops could also raise questions on Capitol Hill. During closed briefings for the House and Senate on Tuesday, defence leaders told congressional officials the US doesn’t want to go to war with Iran and wants to de-escalate the situation.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Patrick Shanahan, left, and Mike Pompeo speak after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran (AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Patrick Shanahan, left, and Mike Pompeo speak after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran (AP)

Mr Pompeo and the acting secretary of defence Patrick Shanahan have insisted the US was only seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran – despite Mr Trump’s posting a series of hostile tweets over the past week. On Sunday the president tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again.”

In early May, the US accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East and sent four B-52 bomber aircraft to the region. The Pentagon also decided to move a Patriot air-defence 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, home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.

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Some Democrats say Mr Trump is responsible for drawing Iran’s anger. Last year he abruptly pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production.

The president also has re-imposed sanctions that have hurt Tehran’s economy, and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The tensions with Iran comes as the US military revealed it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, angering China at a time of fraught relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

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