- President Donald Trump denied reports Tuesday that his administration is exploring the possibility of sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East to take on Iran.
- Trump stressed, though, that he is "absolutely" prepared to do that and would actually send "a hell of a lot more troops than that" if necessary.
- The US military has already deployed a carrier strike group, bomber task force, amphibious assault vessel, and air-and-missile defense battery to the Middle East in response to an unspecified threat from Iran.
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President Donald Trump denied reports Tuesday that his administration is exploring the possibility of sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East to take on Iran as tensions rise, but warned that he is prepared to send "a hell of a lot more" troops if necessary.
The New York Times, citing US national security officials, reported Monday evening that the US military had briefed White House national security personnel on a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. The president called the story "fake news" Tuesday.
"I think it’s fake news," he said at the White House before departing for Louisiana. "Now would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that."
"Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that," he added.
The New York Times reported that Shanahan drafted the new plan at the request of White House national security adviser John Bolton, adding that it was unclear whether or not the president had been briefed.
A week and a half ago, Bolton announced that the US military was immediately deploying a Navy carrier strike group and an Air Force bomber task force to US Central Command to deter Iran, which the US has accused of plotting to attack US interests in the region.
While Iran has long been a regional troublemaker, having previously been accused by the Pentagon of killing at least 600 US troops, the exact nature of the latest threat remains unclear.
Several days after Bolton’s initial announcement, the Pentagon released a statement revealing that it was sending additional assets, including an amphibious vessel and an air-and-missile defense battery, to the Middle East. The White House and the Pentagon have both repeatedly stressed that war with Iran is not the desired outcome.
"We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything it’ll be a very bad mistake, if they do anything," Trump said Monday, adding, "If they do anything, they will suffer greatly."
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