This week, Pentagon officials are scheduled to brief Donald Trump’s national security team on a plan to send as many as 5,000 more American troops to the Middle East in preparation for potential armed conflict with Iran, according to CNN. The proposal was made by the US Central Command, which manages U.S. military actions in the Middle East, a senior defense official told CNN.
The officials say no final decision on the deployment has been made, but it is yet another sign that the Trump administration is gearing up for a potential war. The Department of Defense reportedly say that the troops, even if they were sent, might not be used immediately, and could work as a “deterrence measure.”
The military capabilities being discussed include sending additional ballistic missile defense systems, Tomahawk cruise missiles on submarines, and surface ships with land attack capabilities for striking at a long range. Specific weapons systems and units have not been identified.
Previous calculations by U.S. officials estimated that over 100,000 troops would be needed for a military strike against Iran.
“As a matter of long-standing policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces,” Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Rebecca Rebarich told reporters.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that the U.S. doesn’t want an escalation in tensions with Iran, and restated that war is not the goal.
“We do not want the situation to escalate,” Shanahan told reporters. “This is about deterrence, not about war, we’re not about going to war.”
But with Iran-related announcements from the DOD still coming almost daily, it’s understandable that Iranian and U.S. officials alike are confused.
Meanwhile, multiple U.S. lawmakers and foreign officials say that the supposedly alarming new threats to U.S. forces are unsubstantiated. Trump himself has acknowledged this, when he said on Monday that there is “no indication that anything’s happened or will happen [with Iran], but if it does, it will be met obviously with great force.”
“There are clearly threats to US interests in the region, but those threats are predictable,” Sen. Chris Murphy said in a statement on Tuesday. “Multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic administrations, refused to take the steps that the Trump administration has taken because they knew it would result in the Iranians looking at US assets in the region as targets.”
“Everything I have said to date about how concerned I am with this administration’s push toward war–the fact that there are certain people in the administration who are pushing for regime change in Iran–was reinforced by this briefing,” Rep. Seth Moulton, who is running for president in 2020, told Task & Purpose after the briefing with Shanahan.
Many officials have suggested that the perceived threats from Iran are actually defensive, the result of American actions like tightening sanctions that have given the country little choice but to respond aggressively.
“In his mind, Trump thinks he has a gun to Iran’s head with sanctions and he is trying to shut down our economy,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s director of foreign affairs told CNN earlier this week. “This is all in his imagination. Now he wants us to call him? This is a crazy president!”