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Pentagon Proposes Mideast Troop Buildup05/23 06:13

5/23/2019 - 09:06:00

Pentagon Proposes Mideast Troop Buildup05/23 06:13

   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 , U.S. officials said.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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 , U.S. officials said.

   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.

   U.S. officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats but 
indicated they initially involved missiles loaded onto small Iranian boats. 
This week officials said the missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran's 
shore, but other maritime threats continue.

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

   Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 
told lawmakers the U.S. is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while 
accusing Tehran of threatening U.S. interests in the Mideast. Shanahan told 
reporters, "Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian 
miscalculation."

   Many in Congress are skeptical of the administration's approach to Iran, 
questioning whether it is responding to significant new Iranian threats or 
escalating a situation that could lead to war.

   CNN first reported that the Pentagon will brief the White House on a plan 
that could send thousands of additional U.S. troops to the Middle East.

   Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
declined to comment, saying, "As a matter of long-standing policy, we are not 
going to discuss or speculate on potential or alleged future operations or 
plans."

   In early May, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 Shiite 
militias.

   Some Democrats say Trump is responsible for drawing Iran's ire. Last year he 
abruptly pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the 
Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production, without 
crafting a coherent strategy for how to combat other Iranian behavior like 
supporting extremist organizations. 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.

   "I have yet to see any exhibited strategy," said Democratic Rep. Abigail 
Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA officer. She said she finds many of the 
administration's recent statements on Iran to be "deeply troubling."


(KA)

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