President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied a report that his administration was considering sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to respond to Iran — but added that if the United States were to go with such a plan, “we’d send a hell of a lot more.”
Trump told reporters outside the White House that a New York Times story Monday night claiming his administration was reviewing military plans against Iran was “fake news.”
But moments later, the president said he would consider such a plan.
“Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that,” Trump said. “And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
According to The Times, which cited Trump administration officials, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently presented revised military plans to Trump’s national security team that would propose sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran were to attack American forces or speed up the development of nuclear weapons.
The revised plans — which The Times said did not call for an invasion of Iran — were ordered by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, known for his hawkish stance on Iran, according to the report.
NBC News has not confirmed the report.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have remained high in recent months, and grew even more fraught earlier this month when the U.S. military decided to send a carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East in response to Iranian threats to U.S. military forces and civilians at multiple locations in the region.
Defense officials have told NBC News that recent intelligence showed Iran and its proxies are repositioning forces and may be planning for attacks, both at land and at sea.