Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved the deployment of about 1,500 service members and additional capabilities to the Middle East to deter Iranian efforts to destabilize the region.
The capabilities will be used to improve force protection and safeguard U.S. forces. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command, requested the additional forces.
The forces are necessary as a response to “credible intelligence we have received that Iran continues to plan for attacks by itself and its proxies against the United States, its forces and its allies in the region,” said Katie Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Wheelbarger and Navy Vice Adm. Mike Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, briefed Pentagon reporters on the situation.
The capabilities will enhance defenses, harden positions and provide additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. “I want to make clear that our policy toward Iran has not changed,” Wheelbarger said. “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.” The United States wants Iran to come back to the negotiating table to address a comprehensive deal “that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior,” Wheelbarger said.
Iran has forced the United States to take these steps as Iranian leaders have initiated actions that pose a danger to the United States, allies in the region and the globe, Gilday said. “In the recent past, Iranian leaders have publicly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz,” he added. “They have backed up those threats with actions, posturing their forces in an effort to intimidate the movement of international trade and energy sources.”
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