The US military presents opportunities for President Trump who would improve the protection of US forces in the Middle East in response to rising tensions with Iran and possibly involving the sending of more troops to the region, said acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday.
Shanahan's comments came as US military leaders were expected to propose during a meeting Thursday to send thousands of extra troops to the Middle East for security reinforcement, according to US officials.
"What we look at is: Are there things we can do to strengthen strength protection in the Middle East?" Shanahan said a t Pentagon. He said these measures "might involve sending additional troops."
The US Central Command's proposal, which oversees the Middle East, comes as the military seeks to rectify, which officials have described as an increase in threats to US forces discovered by US intelligence flows, from Iran and its proxy groups. The military has already taken steps in recent weeks to increase its presence in the Middle East, the latest sign of increasing tensions between the Trump administration and Tehran.
The meeting – which Shanahan said would involve updating the president on the security situation in Iran – will not necessarily end in a decision.
Prior to the meeting, Trump said he did not think it would be necessary to send more troops to the region. "But if we need it, we'll be there in all the numbers we need," he said in the White House.
Shanahan rejected reports that the United States is preparing to send as many as 5,000 or 10,000 more forces to territory. "There are no 10,000 and there are no 5,000," Shanahan said.
This month, the Pentagon sent the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, consisting of about 7,500 military personnel, to the region as a force principle. The military also sent four B-52 heavy bombers, as well as a patriotic missile defense battery. Overall, the United States has about 60,000 to 80,000 troops across the Centcom operations area, which includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Persian Gulf States.
Shanahan said this week that he believed the US response had forced Iran to put its planned actions on hold and recalculate.
"There have been no attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "I would consider it a team. It does not mean that the threats we have previously identified have gone away."
He added: "Our cautious answer I think has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think That our response was a measure of our will and our willingness to protect our people and our interests in the region. "
The increased friction comes just over a year after Trump was pulled out of Iran & # 39; s nuclear agreement negotiated by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Since then, the Trump administration has increasingly turned the screws on Tehran, which designated Iran's elite Islamic Islamic Revolutionary Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in April. The administration also chose not to renew exemptions that allowed countries to import Iranian oil in spite of sanctions, as Washington appears to drive Iranian oil sales to zero.
Iran again announced that it would cease to comply with elements of the 2015 Nuclear Act. Earlier this month, President Hassan Rouhani warned that if Iran could not receive sanctions, the country would resume uranium enrichment over the Treaty limits within 60 days.
A number of additional events in the Middle East have been seen in Washington as a sign that Tehran shows the damage it could do to US interests in the region if the Trump administration continues its maximum press campaign.
Damage to the UAE, Saudi and Norwegian ships in Persian Gulf this month was seen by the US and Arab officials as a sabotage action from Iran, as it was a rocket attack near the US Embassy in Baghdad. Tehran has denied inclusion in the episodes, but US officials see them as Iranian crafts designed to warn Washington of the possible consequences of continued escalation.
The rocket attack came days after the ministry announced it ordered all "non-emergency" US state employees "to leave Iraq as a result of tensions with Iran. US officials have warned of a threat to US troops operating in Iraq of Iranian proxy forces in the nation.