The Trump administration is looking into sending as many as 14,000 more troops, as well as dozens more ships and other equipment, to the Middle East in the face of a growing threat from Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported.
U.S. officials told the Journal that President Trump could decide on such a force increase — which would double the number of U.S. military personnel in the region — as soon as this month. A smaller U.S. deployment could also happen, the officials said.
The administration began increasing numbers of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf in May, when Trump said he would deploy roughly 1,500 troops, a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to counter Iran’s influence there.
A month later the Pentagon also announced that it would deploy 1,000 more troops to the same area to address “air, naval, and ground-based threats” in the region.
The announcement was followed quickly by the shooting down of a Navy drone over the Strait of Hormuz in what the Pentagon called an “unprovoked attack,” from Iran.
Then in September roughly 200 additional personnel as well as missile defense and radar equipment were sent to Saudi Arabia in response to Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities. The United States as well as Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have all publicly blamed Iran for the attack, but Tehran denies any involvement.
And in October the administration announced it would also send two fighter squadrons and more missile defense equipment to Riyadh.
The anticipated deployment would likely serve as a deterrent against further attacks from Iran, which has chafed under growing Trump administration sanctions on the country.
The Pentagon’s No. 3 official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said Wednesday that the Pentagon has seen indications that Tehran may soon attack U.S. targets or interests in the Middle East.
“We do remain concerned about potential Iranian aggression,” Rood told reporters before adding: “Deterrence is dynamic, our response is going to be dynamic.”
He would not say if any decisions had been made on additional forces sent to the region, but that Washington has been clear with Iran over consequences should any aggression occur.
“In private … we’ve sent very clear and blunt signals to the Iranian government about the potential consequences of aggression.”