The Pentagon is dispatching an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East in response to recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the United States blames on Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said in a statement announcing the deployment. The additional forces are “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” the statement added.
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The troops are being sent at the request of U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East. Some 1,500 other troops were sent to the region late last month at McKenzie’s request, shortly after the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and a task force of B-52 bombers were also dispatched as reinforcements.
Those deployments came in response to what the Pentagon and White House called signs of possible impending attacks by Iran or its proxies against U.S. forces or interests. Last Friday, Shanahan told reports that he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford were “making sure that General McKenzie and the Central Command have the resources and support they need to conduct their missions.”
The statement did not describe the forces being sent in the latest wave. Last month’s deployments included Patriot antiaircraft missile units to defend U.S. troops in the region from missile attacks.
It also comes as Iran on Monday said it plans to take steps that would violate the 2015 nuclear deal in which it agreed to freeze its weapons program. The Trump administration pulled out of the pact but other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — have kept their commitments.
Earlier today, the Pentagon also released additional photos of one of the tankers attacked last week in the Gulf of Oman, along with a claim that the photos prove Iranian culpability. The Pentagon also said over the weekend that Iranian forces had fired on a U.S. drone during the Gulf of Oman incident, and that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen shot down another U.S. drone early this month.