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US sending 1,000 additional troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions



"In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East, "acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.

" The recent Iranian attacks validate, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region, "Shanahan said, adding that the United States does not seek conflict with Iran."

Shortly before the announcement of the Pentagon released a detailed set of photos that said it was Iranian boats taking a mine from one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 1

3. The US attributes the attack to Iran. Tehran has vigorously denied the charge.

"The action today has been taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests," Shanahan said. "We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats."

News of the additional troop deployment comes as the State Department announced Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel Tuesday to the command center that oversees Middle East military operations.

A day earlier, Pompeo said the Trump administration is still mulling military action against Iran.

The State Department announced Pompeo's trip to US Central Command in Florida after a senior Iranian official told CNN that the US and Iran are headed towards "a very serious concern for everybody in the region." Separately, Iran announced Monday that it will break uranium stockpile limits set by the international nuclear pact the Trump administration pulled out the US out of May 2018.

"Maximum restraint"

European and international officials are calling for "maximum restraint."

Pompeo's visit to Central Command is unusual in that he is not accompanying Shanahan. A defense official CNN that Shahanan is still in DC to "continue to develop options." Shanahan was at the White House on Monday, the official said, and is meeting throughout the day Monday and Tuesday with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

"Right now he needs to stay in DC," the official said.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Monday that Pompeo will meet with CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie and Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of Special Operations Command, "to discuss regional security concerns and operations."

President Donald Trump announced May 24 that the Pentagon would be deploying an additional 1,500 troops to the region as a "mostly protective" force.

 Iran says it will break the uranium stockpile limit agreed during the nuclear deal in 10 days

As tensions intensify, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced Monday that she would travel to Washington for meetings on Tuesday. As she called for calm, she cited Secretary-General of the United Nations Antiour Guterres, who said recently that the world cannot afford another crisis in the Middle East.

"Maximum restraint and wisdom should be applied," Mogherini said.

Apart from the United Kingdom, European governments have not echoed the US claim that Iran was behind the attack on the two tankers. "We have to be very, very careful here," said one European diplomat. "I'm not saying I don't share their assessment," the diplomat said of the Trump administration, "I'm just saying that so far, we haven't decided where we are, basically, we're still gathering information."

Iran continues to deny US allegations

Iran's ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, denied allegations that Tehran is behind the tanker attack in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Baeidinejad cautioned the White House would be "very sorry" to underestimate Iran. When asked who else could be responsible for the tanker attack, Baeidinejad pointed to other countries in the region "who have invested heavily, billions and billions of dollars, to draft the United States into a military conflict with Iran." [Saudi Arabia] Saudi Arabia , Iran's regional arch-enemy, has backed and encouraged US steps to confront Iran

 Pompeo on Iran: US considering range of options including military

As the US maximum pressure campaign against Iran has intensified, the country's officials have complained that while they have adhered to the nuclear pact, US sanctions mean they have gained none of the promised benefits.

After targeting Iran's oil sector in April, the Trump administration revoked sanctions in May that allowed Iran to comply with nonproliferation elements of the nuclear deal. The waivers had allowed Iran to ship away uranium, keeping it below levels mandated by the deal.

After Pompeo's Sunday remarks about possible use of military force, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Iranian atomic agency, said during a Monday news conference that Iran will now accelerate uranium enrichment to 3.7%, above the 3.67% mandated by the nuclear deal.

"If Iran feels that the sanctions have been reinstated or not lifted, Iran has the right to partly or completely suspend its commitments to the pact, Kamalvandi said. He added that there is still time for European countries to save the nuclear deal if they "abide by their commitments."

US allies expressing frustration

Privately, Europeans express frustration with the US approach to Iran, encapsulated by a Pompeo speech laying out 12 ways Iran must change, which many have described as regime change in all but name. "We don't think all of the escalation was necessary," the European diplomat said.

"To be frank, it's very hard to understand what the big picture is or the end game," the diplomat said of the US strategy, noting that the Trump administration has proposed no alternative to the nuclear deal and has so far refused to engage in talks with Tehran.

"Trump wants a better deal, but it's hard for the EU to understand how you're going to get there. We did have a system for a few years ago where all the major powers came together to pressure Iran to get the deal we reached, "the diplomat said. "That was an enormous effort."

 Trump national security team expected to discuss more US military force to Middle East in wake of tanker attacks 19659034] Trump national security team expected to discuss sending more US military force to Middle East wake of tanker attacks

The deal was constructed around "the old stick and carrot idea," the diplomat said. "Now it's just sticks. Where's the carrot? Why should Iran now talk and with what outcome? What's the idea? Don't worry about any alternatives here. it. "

Guterres and other world leaders reacted to Iran's uranium announcement by urging Tehran to stay the course. The UN secretary-general also urged "all parties to refrain from any steps that may lead to further escalation of tensions in the region," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that he regretted the Iranian announcement and noted that they have complied with the nuclear deal. "We encourage them to adopt a patient and responsible behavior," he said.

 Buttigieg: Iran's tensions & # 39; of Iraq War

Pompeo and like-minded allies argued Sunday that the administration is justified in considering a military response to Iran.

"The United States is considering a full range of options," Pompeo said on CBS "Face the Nation." When asked for in military response included in that set of actions, Pompeo said, "Of course."

"The President will consider everything we need to make sure, right? But what's the President said? t for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, "Pompeo added. "President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn't want to go to."

The head of the EU External Action Service, Helga Schmid, said the risk of miscalculation remains high. Schmid, who has just returned from a June 12-15 trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Iran, said the EU was focused on defusing regional tensions and finding ways to promote dialogue.

high, especially in the absence of dialogue, "Schmid said in a statement.

CNN's Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr, Devan Cole and Jamie Ehrlich in Washington and Azadeh Moshiri in London contributed to this report.


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