Wed, Jun 19, 2019 - Page 7 News List

US sending more troops to Middle East

‘VERY MINOR’:Trump seemed to downplay last week’s two tanker attacks, saying that the US is less interested in the region now, because it acquires ‘very little’ oil from it

Bloomberg

The Pentagon plans to send about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as tensions rise between the US and Iran, although US President Donald Trump called two tanker attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic “very minor.”

“I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement on Monday night.

He offered no details on where the troops would be deployed or what their missions might be.

The US has accused the Iranians of being behind the attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week. The Tehran government has denied any involvement.

Trump seemed to downplay the attacks in an interview with Time magazine that was published the same day.

“So far, it’s been very minor,” he said.

Asked if he was considering a military confrontation with Iran, he said: “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.”

In the interview he also said that the Gulf of Oman and the Middle East were less of a concern than in the past, because the US acquires “very little” oil from the region.

Shanahan, in his statement, said that the “attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.”

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” he said. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.”

Earlier on Monday, the Pentagon released photographs and a time line that it said bolstered US accusations that Iran was responsible for the attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the statement accompanying the photographs read.

Trump said last week that “Iran did it,” and British officials said it was “almost certain” that Tehran was behind the attacks.

A US Navy explosives expert, who is not part of the US investigation, told reporters that while the explosive only damaged the tanker Kokuka Courageous, he could not infer what the attackers intended to accomplish.

The Pentagon took the unusual step of identifying the source of the imagery — in this case a US Navy MH-60R surveillance helicopter that can fly and hover as it gathers imagery at lower altitudes than drones or P-8 maritime patrol craft.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation of the attacks, because “it is very important to know the truth,” a statement that has won support from other nations.

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