Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced Monday that President Donald Trump’s administration will send a thousand troops to the Middle East amid increased tensions with Iran.
Shanahan said that the increased forces were in response to a request from U.S. Central Command for defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats in the Middle East. U.S authorities accused Iran of attacks on two tankers last week, though the country’s foreign minister has denied the accusations.
“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,” Shanahan said. “The U.S. does not seek conflict with Iran.”
The decision comes hours after the State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo planned to meet with U.S. military commanders overseeing American forces to provide more proof that Iran was behind the tanker attacks.
U.S. Central Command said the two vessels were hit Thursday by a limpet mine, which is attached to boats below the waterline using magnets.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif angrily dismissed the claims and said they were without “a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
The Japanese owner of one of the tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman contradicted reports by U.S. officials and the military on the source of the blast, claiming it was struck by a flying projectile.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with pan-Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat last week that he would not hesitate to confront regional threats.
“The kingdom does not want war in the region, but we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty and our vital interests,” Salman said.