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United States Considers Sending Military to Confront Iran in Middle East


The United States is considering military options against Iran, according to a report from The New York Times Monday. 

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan met with the Trump administration's top national security aides last Thursday and presented an updated military plan that includes sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks American forces or ramps up its production of nuclear weapons. 

The plan does not involve a land invasion of Iran, which would require many more troops. 

National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has taken a hard stance against the Islamic regime, pushed for the new military strategy. 

It is unclear if President Donald Trump has been briefed on the details of the plan, or if he will approve of sending so many troops back to the Middle East after trying to bring them out of Iraq and Syria. 

"The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership," Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday. "However, Iran's default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo skipped a meeting in Moscow Monday to meet with European Union leaders in Brussels about Iran's nuclear threat. 

EU leaders are scrambling to save the 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States pulled out of last year. Tehran recently threatened to walk away from the deal and continue enriching uranium if the remaining signatories - China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK do not keep their commitments to the agreement. 

European leaders say they "fully support the nuclear deal with Iran" and "its full implementation." They also urged the US to show restraint to avoid an escalation with Iran. 

Pompeo's last-minute visit to Brussels came on the same day the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry announced that two of the country's oil tankers, a Norwegian ship, and a bunkering tanker in Sharjah, were damaged in "an act of sabotage."

Emirati officials are investigating the incident.

The Associated Press reported that "Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies" were behind the attacks. 

A US official who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity, "said each ship has a 5-to-10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line, and the team's early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges."

However, US officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened. 

When asked on Monday about the event, President Trump sent a clear warning to Iran. "It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that," he said. "They're not going to be happy. They are not going to be happy people, okay?"

On Tuesday, Spain's Ministry of Defense temporarily pulled a 215-sailor frigate that was part of a US-led combat fleet out of the Persian Gulf due to mounting tension between Iran and the US. Spanish media sources said Spain is concerned it could be pulled into a conflict between the two countries. 

Last Sunday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the US had sent the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to "send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime."

This was done after the Trump administration said it received new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing its proxies in Iraq and Syria to attack American forces.

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