“Deterrence is dynamic, our response is going to be dynamic”; If 14,000 additional US troops are deployed in the Middle East, the number would add up to 28,000 more boots plus additional air and sea firepower sent to the region this year
DESPARDES — The United States is weighing sending as many as 14,000 more troops to the Middle East amid a perceived threat from Iran, the Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday citing the Wall Street Journal.
There is fresh intelligence of a potential Iranian threat against US forces and interests in the Middle East, report CNN citing several unnamed US defense and administration officials.
“There has been consistent intelligence in the last several weeks,” one administration official said.
A second official described it as information that has been gathered throughout November by military and intelligence agencies.
The New York Times report that Iran secretly moving missiles to Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles.
Pentagon’s senior policy official John Rood, told WSJ no decision has been made on additional capabilities but that the situation is expected to remain fluid. “Deterrence is dynamic, our response is going to be dynamic,” he said.
Such a deployment would include “dozens” more ships and double the number of troops added to the US force in the region since the beginning of this year, the Journal said, citing unidentified US officials.
The Journal said President Donald Trump could make a decision on the troop increase as early as this month. Some US officials worry, however, that adding more American military resources to the mix could put the region on track for a dangerous and unpredictable conflict.
Washington has already ratcheted up its military presence in the Gulf and expanded economic sanctions against Iran, elevating tensions across the region.
“If President Trump decides to do so, it would go against his election promise to withdraw US troops. It would also go against his recent decisions, such as backing out from hitting Iran at the last moment, against the wishes of hardliners in his own administration. Later, he also preferred opting out of the Syria war zone, while endeavoring to pull out from Afghanistan, to fulfill his campaign promises. Yet, in recent days, Secretary Pompeo has been taking a hard line against Iran, apparently to cool down US allies in the region, who were feeling ditched because of the inaction of the Trump administration against Iran. Some also felt, the inaction on part of Washington could even embolden Tehran. There is also a possibility that the businessman in Trump is eyeing billions of dollars from oil rich Arab allies in the region, who have been clamoring for the US to stand up firm against Tehran. Sending more troops could sooth the anti-Tehran lobby that includes both Tel Aviv and Riyadh, and in the process yield hundreds of billion of dollars to Washington in return, as a fee in providing security to Gulf countries against Iran. Not a bad deal, in some senses!” ( Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed who writes on energy for Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, BBC, Arab News, Dawn.
The additional forces would join the roughly 14,000 U.S. service members sent to the region since May.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) questioned the tentative deployment plans in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
“I look forward to hearing tomorrow in Senate Armed Services [Committee] why the Pentagon reportedly wants 14,000 MORE troops in the Middle East, after sending 14,000 already this year alone. Is the Pentagon preparing for a land war?”
President Trump, facing an election next year, has long sought to exit foreign entanglements and avoid new conflicts. But on Iran—and partly at the behest of Israel—he is convinced of the need to counter the threat his aides say Tehran poses, according to WSJ.
Overall, there are between 60,000 and 80,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan — in September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin pulling thousands of troops out of Afghanistan in return for promises to keep out foreign armed groups including the ISIS which poses a threat to all in the region, and that includes Pakistan and Iran.
During a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan last week, President Trump said the Taliban “wants to make a deal.”
Pakistan is said to be active in assisting jumpstart of the stalled talks, as it seeks “enduring stability” in the region which according to a senior Pakistani defense official is slipping into a pre-World War II situation.
Trump’s announcement followed US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arriving in Kabul on Wednesday in an attempt to breathe new life into efforts to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The never-ending conflict has cost the U.S. almost $1 trillion, including estimates for 2019.
And in an indirect dovetailing of interests, both US and Afghan forces as well as the Taliban have been battling fighters from ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
To counter the ISIS and foreign fighters, Iran and Pakistan have also stepped up efforts with a robust border cooperation — Pakistan is building a 920-km long fence along the Pak-Afghan-Iran border.
Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country was willing to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear program if the US first dropped its sanctions, which have hampered its economy.