On June 17th, Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced that a further 1,000 troops would be deployed to the Middle East.
“In response to a request from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East.
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.
The United States does not seek conflict with Iran. 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,” the entire statement read.
The announcement came shortly after the Department of Defense released another statement blaiming Iran for the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13th.
The US troops are a part of an alleged broader military package of options that were initially laid out to U.S. leaders late last month, totaling as much as 10,000 forces, Patriot missile batteries, aircraft and ships.
Currently present in the area of the Persian Gulf are the USS Abraham Lincoln and its carrier strike group and 4 B-52H Stratofortress. On May 24th, Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that the Pentagon will send approximately 1,500 American troops, along with drones and fighter jets.
“The deployment will include approximately 1,500 U.S. military personnel and consist of a Patriot battalion to defend against missile threats, additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, an engineer element to provide force protection improvements throughout the region and a fighter aircraft squadron to provide additional deterrence and depth to our aviation response options,” Shanahan said.
It came one day after the UK’s Royal Navy would send 100 Elite Special Forces Marines to also coordinate with their US allies in the region.
The decision come amid US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo working hard on convincing other states that it was Iran behind the attack on the tankers.
In a press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Megan Ortagus said the following:
“The Secretary [Pompeo] has been working of course incredibly closely within the government with secretary – Acting Secretary Shanahan on multiple times, working on ensuring that we are – excuse me – able to defend our people and our interests. We’re of course working on the diplomatic solution while Secretary Shanahan and the team at DOD is focused on our military options to keep our people, our interests, and our allies safe.
Over the weekend, as almost every weekend with the Secretary – he’s probably the hardworking – most hardworking person I’ve ever worked for – the Secretary had a number of calls with the NATO secretary-general, with a Chinese politburo member, with a Singaporean foreign minister, a Kuwaiti foreign minister, UK foreign minister, Emirati foreign minister, Republic of Korea foreign minister, Qatari foreign minister. We obviously don’t have readouts from every single call that he has, but we have worked incredibly hard with our allies on this assessment as it relates to Iran’s actions last week in the Gulf of Oman.”
She said that the US maximum pressure campaign on Iran was continuing and that it wouldn’t stop until Iran “stops terrorizing the region.”
To further stoke tensions, on June 17th, Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi said that output of uranium has increased four-fold and will surpass 300kg in the next ten days.
“In the field of heavy water, we had valuable achievements, including health and disease diagnosis,” Kamalvandi told reporters. He said that there was still time for Europeans to salvage the situation, but they will not be given any longer.
“If Iran feels that the sanctions have been reinstated or not lifted, Iran has the right to partly or on the whole suspend its commitments,” Kamalvandi said.
“Europeans have expressed inability to their commitments and the Islamic Republic will no longer wait for.”
He added that after making the two moves said in the first step of the statement of the Supreme National Security Council, the second step will be easy to take passing the 3.7% enrichment level in matter of one or two days.
“If it is important for the Europeans to keep the nuclear deal they need to do their best; Iran acts in the context of the JCPOA.”
He further said that Iranian officials have numerous scenarios at hand and overhaul was done on the heavy water plant and is ready to increase its capacity.
“If Iran doesn’t have a market in two and a half months, heavy water stock of Iran may exceed 130 tons.”
In response to Iran’s announcement on uranium enrichment levels, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement: “Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left their capabilities intact. President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”
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