The United States announced on Friday the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defences against Iran as it accused the country's Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month's tanker attacks.
US President Donald Trump publicly announced the 1,500 figure and described it as a defensive measure. The troops include personnel manning missile defence systems, aerial surveillance to spot threats and engineers to fortify defences.
"We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," Mr Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.
The deployment marks a reversal of sorts for Mr Trump, who only on Thursday said he thought more troops were unnecessary. Mr Trump has sought to untangle the US military from open-ended conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan.
The deployment is relatively small, compared with the approximately 70,000 American troops now stationed across the region. In addition, some 600 of the 1,500 troops are already in the Middle East manning Patriot missiles, and will see their deployments extended.
The Trump administration this month ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East, citing intelligence about possible Iranian preparations to attack US forces or interests.
Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, on Friday described US intelligence portraying a new Iranian "campaign" that used old tactics, and stretched from Iraq to Yemen to the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital maritime choke-point for the global oil trade.
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“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight. And I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” Trump said.
“But they cannot have nuclear weapons,” he continued. “They can’t have nuclear weapons. And they understand that.”