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Pentagon contradicts itself on 14,000-troop deployment to Middle East report

The Pentagon US Department of Defense (DoD/WikiCommons)
December 05, 2019

The Pentagon both denied and reaffirmed reports that President Donald Trump is considering sending 14,000 more U.S. service members to the Middle East to counter Iranian aggression.

Two anonymous Pentagon officials told Fox News on Thursday that a plan of 7,000 troops was now being considered for deployment to the Middle East — the latest conflicting report to emerge about the deployment plans.

Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah had tweeted on Wednesday, “This reporting by the @WSJ is wrong. The U.S. is not sending 14,000 troops to the Middle East to confront Iran.”

In a second tweet, Farah reiterated, “To be clear, the reporting is wrong. The U.S. is not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East.”

The original Wall Street Journal report cited several anonymous U.S. officials who said Trump was considering the deployment of up to 14,000 troops, dozens of warships, and additional equipment – a decision he could make as soon as this month.

However, John Rood, senior policy official at the Pentagon, contradicted Farah’s denial, saying that the Pentagon is considering additional deployments. Lawmakers grilled Rood during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, asking whether the WSJ report was accurate or not.

“We’re concerned about the threat stream that we’re seeing,” Rood said of Iran, adding that additional deployments are being considered, but Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has not yet made a decision on a deployment.

“[Esper] continues to evaluate with the advice of others what the appropriate number of forces to be deployed to the Middle East is. … Based on what we’re seeing with … the threat picture, it is possible we would need to adjust our force posture,” Rood said.

Rood underscored the threat of Iran in his testimony before the hearing.

“The capabilities of the Iranian military have progressed although Iran continues to rely on its unconventional warfare elements and asymmetric capabilities,” Rood testified.

“Iran has developed and fielded a substantial arsenal of ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles and UAVs designed to target U.S. forces and our partners in the region. Iran is also using cyber capabilities to advance its military and strategic ends,” he added.

Rood had told reporters on Wednesday, “Deterrence is dynamic, our response is going to be dynamic,” regarding Iran.

Iran has demonstrated increasing aggressive conduct, from saber-rattling, to harassing American ships, to transporting missiles by boat.

Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops have already deployed to the region since May at the direction of U.S. Central Command commander, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie after he and U.S. intelligence experts indicated credible threats from Iran.