More US Troops Could Be Headed to Mideast as Iranian Threat Intensifies
WASHINGTON – A high-ranking Defense Department official acknowledged during a Senate hearing Thursday that the U.S. government is considering sending more troops to the Middle East to counter an Iranian military buildup.
“We’re concerned about the threat stream we’re seeing,” said John C. Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy.
He testified during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to review the National Defense Strategy recently updated by the Pentagon. It describes military threats faced by the U.S. and suggests strategies to confront them.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Trump administration is considering a large increase in U.S. military forces in the Middle East to counter Iran. The expansion would reportedly include dozens more ships and as many as 14,000 additional troops.
The same report stated the planned buildup would double the number of U.S. troops dispatched against Iran since May.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., referred to the Journal report when she asked, “Should I be completely shocked if I were to wake up one morning in the near future and hear on the news that we are deploying a significant number of troops back to the Mideast?”
Rood admitted a troop buildup was being considered but hesitated to set the number at 14,000.
“It is possible that we would need to adjust our force posture,” Rood said.
The Trump administration accused the Iranians this week of recently adding missiles and fast-attack ships to its forces in the Middle East. In addition, troop movements indicate Iran is positioning itself for a potential attack against American forces in the region, Trump officials said.
Rood echoed some of the statements when he said, “Our objective is to counter Iranian aggression.”
The Defense Department reported in Senate testimony that Iran has interfered with navigation in international waters and global economies by attacking oil tankers this year. It also is using proxy fighters from Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq against its hostile Middle Eastern neighbors.
Other parts of Iran’s military buildup have included additions to its arsenal of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones designed to target U.S. forces and Middle Eastern allies. Iran is also increasing its cyber warfare capabilities, according to the Defense Department.
The FARS News Agency gave some details of the buildup in a Nov. 27 report that quoted Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi.
“God willing, we will witness addition of the destroyer, Dena, to the Navy,” in late January or early February, Khanzadi told the news service.
He added, “Concurrently, we will witness the launch of a mine-clearing warship, Saba, in the Navy as well as a drone, namely Simorq, which has a flight durability of 24 hours and capability to carry different types of weapons, including bombs, rockets and projectiles.”
Additions to Iran’s military are heating up rhetoric from U.S. politicians.
President Donald Trump this month accused Iranian police of killing more than 1,000 protesters during recent demonstrations across the country.
The allegations were supported by a video political dissidents sent the State Department showing Iranian Revolutionary Guards armed with machine guns shooting at least 100 protesters in the city of Mahshahr.
Thousands of other videos have been submitted showing other atrocities, State Department officials said.
Discussion of Iran during the Senate hearing was a key part of the talks that also touched on other threats, such as from China and Russia.
“The fundamental problem we continue to face, as identified by the (National Defense Strategy), is the ‘erosion of U.S. competitive military advantage vis-à-vis China and Russia,’ while continuing to address threats from rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea, and violent extremist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Rood said in his testimony. “It is critical that we continue our work to arrest and reverse this trend to regain our competitive military advantage, especially in high-end warfare.”
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