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Pentagon to brief White House on 10,000-troop option for Mideast

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2019. (Michael A. McCoy/Zuma Press/TNS)

The Pentagon is planning to brief the White House on options to deploy as many as 10,000 American troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

[It was initially reported by Reuters and Bloomberg that as many as 5,000 troops could be sent, but it was later reported that up to 10,000 troops could be deployed as part of the plan that will be presented, according to the Associated Press.]

The official, who was granted anonymity to discuss a national security matter, said that the deployment, if it went forward, would be for defensive purposes. The official added that Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take part in the briefing, and that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan may be involved as well.

Word that the administration was considering sending more troops to the region came as concerns have been rising about the risk of conflict between the U.S. and the Tehran government.

President Donald Trump has dispatched an aircraft carrier and bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to unspecified threats from Iran.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. withdrew waivers that allowed countries including India and China to purchase Iranian oil despite sanctions, as the Trump administration tries to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran’s government.

Trump withdrew from the 2015 accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear program after complaining it wasn’t hard enough on Tehran. The president said on Monday that the U.S. has seen no signs that Iran was planning an attack on American forces, but he issued a warning.

“We have no indication that anything is happening or will happen,” Trump told reporters. “But if it does it will be met with great force.”

He has invited the country’s leaders to negotiate a new version of the nuclear accord. So far, they have refused.

“I only want them to call if they’re ready,” Trump said. “If they’re not ready, they don’t have to bother.”

Iran has accelerated the rate at which it’s enriching low-grade uranium, weeks after threatening to gradually scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord.

Even without a direct U.S.-Iranian confrontation, provocative acts by others could draw both countries into a conflict. For example, Houthi rebels, who are being supported by Iran in Yemen’s civil war, have attacked an oil installation and an airport in Saudi Arabia, which has led a military campaign against the Houthis.

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Earlier this week, a prominent Iranian lawmaker said his country “will not enter a war” with the U.S. Iran neither seeks “war nor negotiations but what officials need to be mindful of is managing tensions,” the lawmaker, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, told the Iranian Labor News Agency.

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.