Is the U.S. preparing to deploy another 14,000 troops to the Middle East? A story in the Wall Street Journal says that the White House is considering sending additional troops to the region to counter a growing threat from Iran.
But some anonymous sources inside the Pentagon deny it while others have gone on record saying the deployment is being considered but no final decision has been made.
"We haven't made a decision to deploy an additional 14,000 troops" to the Middle East, John Rood, the Pentagon No. 3 civilian, told the SASC, clarifying the WSJ report and DOD's response. Watch live https://t.co/R7M5S8vUb1
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) December 5, 2019
Is there a reason we would send more troops to the Middle East?
Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to American intelligence and military officials.
The buildup comes as the United States has rebuilt its military presence in the Middle East to counter emerging threats to American interests, including attacks on oil tankers and facilities that intelligence officials have blamed on Iran. Since May, the Trump administration has sent roughly 14,000 additional troops to the region, primarily to staff Navy ships and missile defense systems.
But new intelligence about Iran’s stockpiling of missiles in Iraq is the latest sign that the Trump administration’s efforts to deter Tehran by increasing the American military presence in the Middle East has largely failed.
That’s certainly worrisome but nothing new. Reuters reported last year that Iran was deploying missiles to Iraq, using the Shiite militias under their control. Now, those same militias are carrying out a silent coup against the government, moving into strategic positions and exerting Iran’s influence more openly.
Officials said Iran was using Iraqi Shiite militias, many of which it has long supplied and controlled, to move and hide the missiles. The Iranian-backed militias have effectively taken control of a number roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure in Iraq, easing Tehran’s ability to sneak the missiles into the country, officials said.
Helping Iran sneak missiles into the country is one thing. But might those militias also be paving the way and preparing the ground for Iranian troops to enter Iraq? Controlling choke points like bridges and roads would make an invading army’s job that much easier. And Iran has been warning for weeks that they would not tolerate a change in how they dominate their next-door neighbor. Iraq is the key to Iranian hegemony in the region, not Syria. If Iraq begins to show more independence from Tehran, what would Iran do?
These uncertainties make it more than likely that serious discussions on additional troop deployments to Iraq are underway in the White House.
The idea of sending more American troops to the Middle East has been in the works for months but it is more likely given the threat from Iran right now, said the source familiar with the planning.
Since the missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, that the U.S. blames on Iran, the U.S. has continued to see provocations from Iran.
On Wednesday, it was disclosed that last week a U.S. Navy destroyer seized an Iranian dhow with missile parts headed to Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. The New York Times also reported on Wednesday that in another provocative move Iran has been using Iranian-backed militias to secretly flow an arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles into Iraq.
Iran wouldn’t be the first country to start a war to distract a rebellious populace. In their case, making the war a crusade against the “Great Satan” would be ideal.
But any war in Iran would likely draw other nations into the fray, turning a local conflict into a regional war. No country run by sane people wants to see that. But war follows its own logic, and the unpredictability of the outcome makes conflict extremely dangerous.