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 Wednesday.
The officials said no final decision had been made yet, and it was not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces. Officials said the move was not in response to any new threat from Iran but was 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 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 was not 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 Donald Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region.
US officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats, but indicated they initially involved missiles loaded on to 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 US does not want to go to war with Iran and wants to de-escalate the situation.
The 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 Middle East. 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.