The top U.S. defense official has presented an updated military plan to President Donald Trump’s administration that envisions sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, the New York Times has reported.
Citing unnamed administration officials, the Times said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan at a meeting of Trump’s top security aides on May 9.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Pentagon declined to comment.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have intensified since Trump pulled out of a 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities and imposed increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.
Trump wants to force Tehran to agree to a broader arms control accord and has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what U.S. officials have said are threats to U.S. troops in the region.
Iran has said the U.S. is engaging in “psychological warfare,” called the U.S. military presence “a target” rather than a threat and said it will not allow its oil exports to be halted.
The Times said among those attending the Thursday meeting were Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.
Several plans were detailed, the Times said, and “the uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, pledged late on May 13 that the Islamic republic is “too great to be intimidated by anyone” in a late night meeting with clerics.
“God willing we will pass this difficult period with glory and our heads held high, and defeat the enemy,” Rouhani said late Monday as he met Sunni clerics to mark the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, the official government website dolat.ir said.
He was speaking after four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were reportedly attacked off the UAE coast on May 13, in a sign of mounting regional tensions.
Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an “alarming” incident.
Trump warned Iran May 13 following the attacks.
“It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that,” Trump told reporters at the White House while hosting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “They are not going to be happy people.”
Saudi Arabia said on May 14 that it had stopped pumping crude oil along a major pipeline following a drone attack, hours after Yemen’s Huthi rebels said they had targeted vital Saudi installations.
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said two pumping stations on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea had been targeted early on May 14.__Hurriyet