WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sending 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of the continued buildup of forces in response to alleged threats from Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement to Pentagon reporters Monday night.
Iran is being blamed for two attacks oil tankers last week in waters off its coast. It also has been blamed for attacks on other ships last month.
As he did when troops were sent to the region last month, Shanahan said the new forces are for defensive reasons.
When unspecified threats from Iran were announced in May, the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region. It also sent Patriot anti-missile batteries, a high-grade amphibious unit, B-52 bombers, and several thousand troops.
The new forces are mostly to be intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, force protection and engineers, Pentagon officials told reporters on Monday. No timetable for their arrival was given.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” Shanahan said in the statement. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests. We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats.”
On Monday the Pentagon released additional photos to support its contention that Iran was behind last week’s tanker attacks. The photos do not show a direct link to Iran.
Pentagon officials who briefed reporters Monday said a forensic investigation has been started to determine, if possible, the origin of mines placed on the two ships and other data.
The photos include some that show, according to accompanying captions, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy removing a mine from one of the two attacked ships as well as close-ups of the area around where the mine was placed.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” Central Command said in a statement about the photos.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet with the commanders of Central Command and Special Operations Command today in Tampa.