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Pentagon sending 1,000 troops to Middle East after Iran’s ‘hostile behavior’

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan travels to Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, with U.S. Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the NATO Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2019. (Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense)
June 17, 2019

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

The Pentagon announced Monday night that it is sending 1,000 more U.S. troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan released a statement, saying the troops are for “defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” adding that the “recent Iranian attacks validate 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.”

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The U.S. last week blamed Iran for an attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a situation that has quickly escalated tensions in the region.

Nearly one week ago, two oil tankers were hit in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, one reportedly hit by a torpedo.

The Norwegian-owned Front Altair was allegedly hit by a torpedo, news outlets reported, and it was on fire in the Gulf. The Kokuka Courageous tanker also suffered damages after a “suspected attack,” according to reports.

Iran was immediately suspected of having coordinated the hits. One of the tankers was carrying Japanese goods, and Iran and Japanese officials had been meeting in Tehran at the time. The tankers were near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic, heavily trafficked waterways, where one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through. The attacks also took place near the location where Iran was accused of sabotaging four tankers last month.

The U.S. Navy had responded to the scene and helped evacuate the tankers.

Then, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) released video footage late Thursday of what they say are Iranians removing an unexploded mine from one of the oil tankers that was attacked.

Officials now say this video footage helps prove it.

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At around 4:00 p.m. on the day of the attack, “an IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous [oil tanker] and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban had said.

“The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce,” Urban said.