The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand additional troops to the Middle East to deter Iranian aggression, amid reports of escalating violence in Iran and continued meddling by Tehran in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region. John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper "intends to make changes" to the number of troops deployed in the region, the AP reports. Other officials said options under consideration could send 5,000 to 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions. The troop deliberations follow several decisions since spring to beef up the US presence in the region because of a series of maritime attacks and bombings in Saudi Arabia that the US and others have blamed on Iran.
President Trump has approved those increases, though he routinely insists he is pulling US troops out of the Middle East and withdrawing from "endless wars." Asked about sending troops, Trump said Thursday: ”We'll announce whether we will or not. Certainly there might be a threat. And if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly." Military leaders have argued the US needs to increase its presence to deter Iran from more and broader attacks. Rood provided no details to back up why additional troops are needed, but said the US is concerned about intelligence indications suggesting an increased threat from Iran. The administration on Thursday accused Iran of killing more than 1,000 people in crackdowns against recent protests. Trump said that the US "stands by the protesters," per CNN, and that the situation "could be fixed very quickly."
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