U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States will send 1,500 troops to the Middle East to serve in a “mostly protective role” in response to the Iranian threat. It was not, however, the 5,000 and 10,000 U.S. troops suggested on Thursday by the Pentagon.
The administration notified Congress earlier Friday about the plan.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the White House has “formally informed Congress that it is invoking an obscure provision of the Arms Export Control Act to eliminate the statutorily required congressional review of the sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others,” reported CNN.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the breakdown of existing U.S. forces in the Middle East includes 14,000 in Afghanistan, 5,200 in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported the then-upcoming Pentagon proposal to the administration on Thursday would consist of 10,000 troops to the region, while Reuters reported it would be 5,000 troops.
Friday’s development came amid Washington increasing pressure on Tehran as the former has been enacting 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.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
However, Trump has expressed that he does not want war with the regime.
“I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons—you just can’t let that happen,” he said in an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday night.
Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium, according to media reports on Monday.
The New York Times reported last week that the Trump administration has reviewed a military option that includes sending up to 120,000 troops to the Mideast if Iran were to attack U.S. forces or increase its work on nuclear weapons. Trump denied the report.