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Trump Denies Mulling 120K Troop Plan for Middle East: ‘We’d Send a Hell of a Lot More than That’

U.S. President Donald Trump makes a video call to service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard stationed worldwide in the Oval Office at the White House December 25, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson-Pool/Getty Images)
Zach Gibson-Pool/Getty
JOSHUA CAPLAN

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied the veracity of an anonymously sourced report claiming administration officials are reviewing plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East amid flaring tensions with Iran.

“I think it’s fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” the president told reporters on the White House’s South Lawn ahead of his trip to Louisiana.

President Trump’s remarks come after the New York Times reported Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan provided the plan in a meeting with the president’s top security aides on Thursday. The newspaper claimed National Security Advisor John Bolton asked the Pentagon for a revised military plan. Excluded from it were plans for a ground invasion of Iran.

The thinly sourced report came days after President Trump tightened the screws further on Iran with sanctions on its mining industry after a frustrated Tehran said it would suspend some promises it made under a nuclear deal rejected by Washington.

On the anniversary of the president’s withdrawal from the accord he denounced as “horrible,” tensions were soaring as the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region and accused Iran of plotting “imminent” attacks.

In an announcement previewed for days, Iran said it would immediately stop implementing some restrictions under the 2015 deal — a move aimed largely at pressing Washington’s European allies to step up to preserve the agreement.

Tehran said it would abandon even more if the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia — failed to start delivering on their commitments to sanctions relief within 60 days.

President Donald Trump issued another warning to Iran on Monday, stating that if Tehran does “anything” in the form of an attack “they will suffer greatly.”

He was asked Monday about two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel being damaged in what Gulf officials described as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Details of the incident remain unclear. However, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies.

President Trump was asked about the sabotage, and responded: “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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