President Donald Trump has approved a plan by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to beef up military efforts in the Persian Gulf in an effort to counter what U.S. officials have categorized as a "credible" threat from Iran.
The deployment will reportedly include fewer than 3,000 troops, Patriot missile batteries, reconnaissance aircraft and other supporting forces, two officials told CNN. The move comes after the Trump administration sped up the deployment of a carrier strike group earlier this month. The U.S. deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East.
"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces," Secretary of State John Bolton said at the time.
Trump administration officials say the deployments are a defensive move and not intended to provoke a war with Iran.
"Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation," Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. "We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war."
The Trump administration is also considering using a pre-existing rule to allow it to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia as part of its effort to counter Tehran.
"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" Trump wrote on twitter last week.
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