US sending 1,000 troops to Middle East as Iran tensions mount

Tensions are rising in the Middle East, especially between Iran and the US and the other Gulf countries. It's hard to know who to believe, what media to believe in particular, when you are not there to assess actions for yourself. I know that when I lived in the UAE a great deal of activity went on in the Strait of Hormuz that went unrecorded, or at least unmentioned by the media. Now it's in the interests of the authorities to release information. What should we believe?

Here's a roundup of events from Khaleej Times, for which I once worked. This is a summary of the facts rather than analysis.

The Pentagon on Monday ordered another 1,000 American troops to the Middle East, moving to bolster security in a region reeling from hostile attacks on commercial ships that the U.S. has blamed on Iran.

Officials said the deployment includes security forces and troops for additional surveillance and intelligence gathering in the region. And while the number is small, it represents an escalation of U.S. military might aimed at deterring Iran and calming allies worried that transit through key shipping lanes could be in jeopardy.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan issued a statement saying the forces are "for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East."

The forces are part of a broader military package of options that were initially laid out to U.S. leaders late last month, totaling as much as 10,000 forces, Patriot missile batteries, aircraft and ships. The decision to send 1,000 troops signals a measured approached by President Donald Trump, who campaigned against the Mideast entanglements of his predecessors and has struggled to bring troops home, despite ongoing threats.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," Shanahan 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." He added that the U.S. will continue to adjust troop levels as needed.

The troop decision comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials reached out to leaders in Asia and Europe to convince them that Iran was behind the alleged attacks on ships in the Middle East. The Pentagon released new photos intended to bolster its case that Iran was to blame.

The images, many taken from a Navy helicopter, show what the Pentagon said were Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

Officials last week said the move appeared to be an attempt to remove forensic evidence from the scene of the attack. But it's not clear if examination of the mine would have made it definitively clear that the device was planted by the IRGC.

The Trump administration also finds itself in the awkward position of demanding that Iran comply with a nuclear accord that the president has derided as the worst deal in history.

  1. Iran announced Monday it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by a 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
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Thursday, 12 December 2019