The Pentagon is set to present plans to the White House on Thursday outlining the proposed deployment of up to 10,000 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, the Associated Press reports.
According to the anonymous officials cited in the report, the troops would be defensive forces, though it is not yet clear if the White House will approve sending all of them or just some of them. The deployment would also reportedly include sending additional Patriot missile batteries, and plans to send more ships have also been discussed.
Reuters also reported Wednesday that the Defense Department was considering a plan to send 5,000 additional troops to the region. Sources said the request had been made by U.S. Central Command, but it was not yet clear if the Pentagon would approve.
A source also told Reuters the troops would be a defensive force. “As a matter of longstanding policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Reuters.
Speculation that the U.S. would send troops to Iran was first reported in a New York Times story earlier this month about Trump's top national security aides reviewing a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East. After the story broke, President Trump publicly stated that he hoped the U.S. would not go to war with Iran.
But National Security Adviser John Bolton has painted a different picture, citing “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” that point to Iran threatening the U.S. and allies.
Sanctions the U.S. imposed on Tehran after pulling out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal are believed to have contributed to rising tensions between the two nations. Beyond the Iran Deal, the State Department designated Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization in April—which reportedly sparked concerns among defense officials that the country may retaliate. Several oil tankers were also attacked or sabotaged earlier this month off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, which U.S. officials reportedly suspect was Iran's doing though there is no definitive evidence pointing the blame at the country.
“It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Trump told reporters when asked about the incident.