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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will send additional American troops, drones and fighter jets to the Middle East amid increasing tensions between the United States and Iran.
"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," acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan wrote in a statement Friday.
Defense officials at the Pentagon said Friday that they had credible intelligence that Iran and its proxies are planning to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East.
"We have had multiple credible reports that Iranian proxy groups intend to attack U.S. personnel in the Middle East. While we won't be able to declassify all the available intelligence we believe that Iran's actions and threats are troubling, escalatory and dangerous to our U.S. forces and those of our regional partners," said Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, director of the Joint Staff.
Gilday added that a series of recent attacks in the region may have been inspired by Iran, including a rocket attack in Iraq, armed drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations and the sabotage of four vessels including two Saudi oil tankers.
"We believe with a high degree of confidence that this [recent attacks] stems back to the leadership in Iran at the highest levels," Gilday said of the attacks.
"We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," President Donald Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens," he added.
The latest deployment comes on the heels of the Pentagon's decision to send more assets to the Middle East earlier this month.
Currently, the USS Arlington, USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a Patriot missile defense battery and a U.S. Air Force bomber task force have been sent to the region in order to deter Iranian and proxy threats.
The Patriot missile system, manufactured by Raytheon, is combat-tested against aircraft, drones, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles. The system is currently deployed in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The movement of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East is the Trump administration's latest effort to pressure Tehran over its support for weapons proliferation and extremist groups in the Middle East.
Earlier this month, Trump ordered new sanctions placed on Iranian metals, Tehran's largest non-petroleum-related source of export revenue. The U.S. also took aim at Iranian oil by effectively ordering countries worldwide to stop buying Tehran's oil or face sanctions of their own.
Additionally, the U.S. designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Iran responded with threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about a third of the world's oil export vessels pass. The U.S. then announced it was expediting the deployment of a carrier strike group equipped with bomber aircraft to the region.
Tehran announced it was relaxing some restrictions on its nuclear program but would not violate a 2015 accord with Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States. Iran had agreed to the 2015 limits on its disputed nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
A year ago Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it a "horrible, one-sided" deal.