(May 14, 2019 / JNS) The Trump administration is reviewing a military option that includes sending up to 120,000 troops to the Mideast were Iran to attack U.S. forces or increase its work on nuclear weapons, reported The New York Times on Monday evening, citing unnamed administration officials.
Officials told the outlet that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan proposed the idea at a meeting with on Thursday with the president’s top security advisers.
The plan does not call for a land invasion of troops, which would require more than 120,000 soldiers, said the officials.
“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” National Security Council spokesperson Garrett Marquis told The New York Times on Monday. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”
The Pentagon declined to comment to Reuters about the report.
The report came amid increasing tensions between the United States and Iran with Trump warning on Monday that Tehran will “suffer greatly” if “they do anything.”
“We’ll see what happens with Iran. … If they do anything, they will suffer greatly,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office in response to reports that two oil tankers owned by Saudi Arabia and two others, one owned by the United Arab Emirates and another by Norway, were sabotaged, possibly by Tehran.
“It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens. I can tell you that,” said Trump. “They’re not going to be happy. They’re not going to be happy people.”
The president did not elaborate on the threat, saying, “You can figure it out yourself. They know what I mean by it.”
The United States has increased pressure on Tehran over the past week with new sanctions and deploying two warships with fighter jets, in addition to a Patriot missile battery, to the Gulf in response to Pentagon reports that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was planning an attack on U.S. forces or interests in the region—moves that have caused European foreign ministers to call for de-escalation.
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side, but ends with some kind of conflict,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday. “What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.”
Trump, however, denied the report.
“I think it’s fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that,” he told reporters on Tuesday at the White House. “And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”