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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to send more troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions between the United States and Iran.
"I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East," wrote acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan in a statement Monday.
"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 Pentagon did not give any further details on the timing of the deployment.
The latest revelation comes on the heels of last week's attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
The Trump administration blamed Iran for the attacks on the tankers operating near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route through which much of the world's oil passes.
"Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday without citing specific evidence as to why Tehran was responsible. "No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail."
At the Pentagon, Shanahan called the matter an "international problem," adding that his role would be to "set the conditions for diplomacy." He added that he was in close coordination with U.S. Central Command to verify whether forces in the region had necessary resources and support for their missions.
On Monday, the Pentagon released declassified images showing the sustained damage from one of the oil tankers and maintained that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy was responsible.
Last month, the Pentagon said it was sending additional U.S. troops, drones and fighter jets to the Middle East citing credible intelligence that Iran and its proxies are planning to attack American forces in Iraq.
"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 wrote in a May 24 statement.