The US will deploy additional troops and military assets to the Middle East in response to intelligence inputs that Iran is planning to target the US and its allies in the region.
US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M Shanahan has approved the request made by US Central Command commander Marine Corps general Kenneth McKenzie for additional forces.
The US will send about 1,500 service members and additional capabilities in order to deter ‘Iranian efforts to destabilise the region’.
Capabilities being deployed will bolster force protection, while providing additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
US acting assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs Katie Wheelbarger justified the additional forces, stating that they are in response to ‘credible intelligence we have received that Iran continues to plan for attacks by itself and its proxies against the US, its forces and its allies in the region’.
Wheelbarger added: “As the president and secretary have made clear, we do not seek conflict with Iran. We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature.”
She added that the US is open to start fresh negotiations with Iran to reach a comprehensive deal.
The US and its ally Saudi Arabia have held Iran responsible for attacks on oil tankers in Fujairah in the UAE, as well as armed drone attacks on oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia.
These attacks have further escalated the tensions in the region. A rocket hit the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad on 19 May near the US Embassy.
US Joint Staff director navy vice-admiral Mike Gilday pointed to intelligence reports that Iranian proxy groups are looking to attack US forces in the Middle East.
Previously, in view of the threat, the US deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, a bomber task force and a Patriot missile battery to the region.
Other assets to be sent in the coming weeks include additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft; and a fighter aircraft squadron.