US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced Tuesday that the United States will send about 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, in response to the growing threat from Iran and the attack on the oil tankers on Thursday, and Tehran’s threat to break the nuclear agreement.
Shanahan said in a statement that the purpose of the forces’ reinforcement was defensive. “The recent attacks by Iran are validating the intelligence we have received about the hostile behavior of the Iranian forces and their proxies, which threatens the United States and its interests throughout the region,” he said.
According to officials in the administration, the forces sent to the area will assist in security missions, observation, and intelligence. On Monday, it was reported that Britain was also planning to send troops to the Persian Gulf, though only 100 commandos, to guard British ships.
President Donald Trump confirmed last month that he would send 1,500 troops to the Middle East following a previous attack on four tankers near the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
The New York Times reported Friday that the original request by the US Central Command was to reinforce 20,000 troops. For fear that Trump would reject it on the threshold or that the Iranians would respond harshly, acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan and Joint Forces Commander General Joseph Dunford have reduced the scope of the previous request.
The United States has accused Tehran of attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, as it accused it of the previous attack in May. The US claimed that Iran did so in order to disrupt trade in the critical maritime route to the global oil industry.
After the US military released a video claiming to be showing the Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel removing a landmine that did not explode from one of the Japanese tankers, the military released more pictures from Thursday’s events. One of them, taken from a US Navy helicopter, showed a large hole in the side of the ship, and according to the Pentagon, it was caused by a mine that exploded. Other photos show the boat in which the Revolutionary Guards Corps sailed after removing the mine.
Yesterday Iran’s Chief of Staff General Mohammed Bakri, denied that his country was responsible for the attack on the tankers. According to Bakri, if Tehran wanted to block the traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, where the Gulf of Oman leads, and the tankers were attacked, it would do so publicly.
So far, many countries have been careful about imposing blame on Iran for attacking tankers. Only Britain and Saudi Arabia joined in the United States. Yesterday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials held talks with leaders in Asia and Europe to convince them that Iran was responsible for the attack.
Another factor that exacerbates the tension is Tehran’s announcement yesterday in which it intends to breach within ten days the limit set in the nuclear agreement of 2015 for the amount of low-enriched uranium it is entitled to possess.
The nuclear agency in Tehran said that in light of the “needs of the state” Iran may increase the level of uranium enrichment to a level of up to 20%, a level from which the way to produce enriched uranium at the level suitable for the bomb – 90%. In an attempt to put pressure on the European powers, it was reported that they could still save the agreement but must act quickly.
The United States, which under President Trump resigned last year from the nuclear deal, reacted strongly to the Iranian threat, saying that the Iranian announcement was “nuclear blackmail”- and that the response should be to increase international pressure on Tehran.
It was also reported that “President Trump made it clear that he would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also responded to the threat from Tehran, saying that if it will be implemented, the international community must immediately return the sanctions against it.