Donald Trump has ordered 1,000 more troops to the Middle East just days after the US president accused Tehran of orchestrating an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a deployment the Pentagon said was need to counter hostile Iranian actions.
Patrick Shanahan, the acting defence secretary, said on Monday the deployment was defensive in nature, insisting Washington does not “seek conflict with Iran” and that the Pentagon would continue to “make adjustments to force levels as necessary”.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Mr Shanahan said.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” he added. “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.”
The decision appeared part of an intensified sabre-rattling effort aimed at the Iranian regime, which earlier on Monday announced it would breach limits on enriching uranium that had been agreed in the 2015 nuclear pact with the US and other Western allies.
The Pentagon also released additional photographs allegedly showing an Iranian vessel pulling up alongside a Japanese tanker damaged in last week’s Gulf of Oman attacks and removing an unexploded limpet mine.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the Pentagon said in a statement accompanying the new photographs, which were taken by a Navy Seahawk reconnaissance helicopter.