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US beefing up forces in Middle East

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    President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2019, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Tokyo. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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    FILE - In this March 20, 2019 file photo, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Shanahan is set to deliver the commencement address to the 2019 graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy. The former Boeing executive will speak Friday, May 24, 2019, at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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    President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and then on to Tokyo. AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK

Published May 25. 2019 06:05AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will send hundreds of additional troops and a dozen fighter jets to the Middle East in the coming weeks to counter what the Pentagon said is an escalating campaign by Iran to plan attacks against the U.S. and its interests in the region. And for the first time, Pentagon officials on Friday publicly blamed Iran and its proxies for recent tanker bombings near United Arab Emirates and a rocket attack in Iraq.

President Donald Trump told reporters Friday that the 1,500 troops would have a “mostly protective” role as part of a build up that began this month in response to what the U.S. said was a threat from Iran, without providing details or evidence.

Vice Admiral Michael Gilday told Pentagon reporters that the U.S. has “very high confidence” that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was responsible for the explosions on four tankers, and that Iranian proxies in Iraq fired rockets into Baghdad. He said Iran also tried to deploy modified small boats that were capable of launching cruise missiles.

The deployments announced Friday include a squadron of 12 fighter jets, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, and a number of military engineers to beef up protection for forces. In addition a battalion of four Patriot missile batteries that were scheduled to leave the Middle East has been ordered to stay. The total number of troops involved is about 1,500, with roughly 600 included in the Patriot battalion.

“We are going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” the president said at the White House before setting off on a trip to Japan. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens.”

Trump has in recent weeks alternated between tough talk toward Iran and a more conciliatory message, insisting he is open to negotiations with the Islamic Republic. He seemed to downplay the prospect of conflict when he spoke at the White House.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Gilday, the Joint Staff director, did not provide direct evidence to back up claims tying Iran to the attacks. He told reporters the conclusions were based on intelligence and evidence gathered in the region, and officials said they are trying to declassify some of the information so that it could be made public.

“This is truly operations driven by intelligence,” Gilday said, adding that the U.S. continues to see intelligence suggesting that Iran is actively planning attacks against the U.S. and partners in the region by the Revolutionary Guard and Iranian proxies in Yemen and Iraq.

When pressed for proof of Iran’s involvement, he said the mines used in the tanker attacks were attributed directly to the Revolutionary Guard.

“I’m not reverse engineering this,” he said. “The Iranians have said publicly they were going to do things. We learn more through intelligence reporting. They have acted upon those threats and they’ve actually attacked.”

The announcement of additional forces was met with mixed reviews.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Adam Smith of Washington, called the build up “unsettling.”

“Leaders from both sides of the aisle have called for de-escalation. At first blush, this move does not fit the bill,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “Without a clearly articulated strategy, adding more personnel and mission systems seems unwise, and appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.”

The senior Republican on the committee, Mac Thornberry of Texas, called it “a prudent step to protect our forces and deter Iran.”

The administration notified Congress earlier in the day about the troop plans.

Gilday and Katie Wheelbarger, the acting assistant defense secretary for international affairs, said the mission is strictly defensive, and is not designed to provoke Iran into carrying out additional attacks. They said the Pentagon will continue to evaluate the number of troops in the region in case more are needed later.

Earlier this week, officials said military planners had outlined options that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners hadn’t settled on a figure.

The U.S. has about 70,000 troops across the Middle East, including at a major Navy base in Bahrain and an Air Force base and operations center in Qatar. There are about 5,200 troops in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria.

You folks realize that these troops, these young men, are from places like where I live... the heartland of America, because in places like Philly, too small of a population graduating could even pass the entry exam for the services. I hate that we need to send our GOOD young men abroad to keep the peace, in an area that will NEVER see peace, meanwhile the slacker thugs lay around smoking weed and drinking booze, waiting for their next welfare check.
Come on Joe. Sometimes immediate action is needed. The President has some time to react as he feels necessary. President Trump was legitimately elected you might remember. We have to trust the President, not tie his hands with Trump Derangement Syndrome sycophants. This is crazy Joe. What happened to your America Firster Agenda? What happens when NYC gets a nuclear bomb because of undue delay? This is all based upon the premise that an American Citizen likes the President more than they like the enemy. This has always been the case until Trump became President!
Illegal war isn’t American. Dictatorship isn’t America. What emergency is he responding to? Why is trump declaring an emergency to sell arms to the Mideast?
What is illegal War Joe? Where is there Dictatorship Joe? Iran has been an emergency since pretty much 1979. Iran is a terrorist country that is responsible for the deaths of American servicemen for years. How would you like to “gift” nuclear weapons to Iran as the Obama/Kerry failed doctrine (5 year plan)? How would you like NYC to have a nuclear bomb? You, Joe, willfully stick your head in the sand to avoid seeing problems. Trump is making inroads with the Saudis and others. Arms sales to Mideast allies will bring them closer to us, if it is done with care, as I am sure it will be. You, Joe are critical of Trump beyond what someone with your level of understanding should be. You have a defect that makes you look through hatred that spoils your sense of reasoning. What a shame that your political outbursts are not cancelled out by rational understanding.
Good book on Iran : Guests of the Ayatollah by Bowen, This book shows good background on Iran, hostage story, interior Iran turmoil, etc
Going to war without the approval of congress is an overstep and constitutes an illegal war.

Congress, dating back to when the GOP had both chambers, has refused to approve arm sales. Saudi Arabia murdered a journalist for the US and is now rewarded by Trump.

We have a constitutional republic that requires checks and balances. Applauding the president in committing our troops to war unilaterally, especially a president as unstable as this one, is crazy.
U.S. & Saudi relations should not be terminated over a single loss of the journalist. The journalist was more of an activist. He lived in the U.S. but he was not a U.S. citizen. That didn’t make what happened right. It would be ignorant and shallow to take drastic measures just as we are on the precipice of agreement. Things are different in Saudi Arabia. You can go to “The Square” and watch executions. I never did, but, it is a local attraction. Justice is dealt with differently in Saudi Arabia. You are not going to change that Joe.
Lefties like you Joe, increasingly fall back on the phrase “checks and balances.” Soon, all will see behind the attempted coup against President Trump. Many against Trump still deny the legitimacy of the 2016 Election, the 2.5 year investigation that had 19 lawyers and cost $35 Million. Now, after exoneration they need to investigate further under the guise of “checks & balances.”
The Resist Movement would not give President Trump any flexibility at all if he needed to send troops to a hot spot somewhere in the world. Look at the border crisis that was denied and still is denied. Trump is right as time will indicate. Liberals and fake media hate Trump more than they would hate the enemy. This Trump Derangement Syndrome is hampering our country. Getting Congress approval for Trump for anything would be impossible under the current situation. You, Joe, to call Trump unstable indicates your mental illness. You are unstable. Trump is a fighter and a winner...irregardless of resistance. America is sick and tired of TDS nut jobs that hate America. Why do you think 30k+ show up to Trump Rallies?
The journalist was no journalist, but what the man did was reckless.
The more the resistance movement squawks, the more I'm convinced we have a great POTUS.
They practically pay people to go to rallies for the progressives, you can't get near the Trump Rallies. I find it amusing. Ha Ha Ha
Thank God we have an accomplished, knowledgeable, qualified, and wise Commander. The last one was a failure.
there was a time that "moral leader" would have been listed by a christian conservative, but those days are gone.

Also are the days of an American president keeping Memorial Day solemn and important. Instead of visiting the graves of our fallen, Trump reiterated his devotion to a dictator who tested missiles today designed to be used against us. Trump is really special alright
Trump is awesome Joe. We knew you would come around. U.S.S. Wasp speech awesome! Imperial Palace speech awesome! Troops love President Trump! President Trump loves troops. You, Joe, are a fraud to yourself. “Devotion to a dictator...” Come on Joe. You are crazy with hatred. Here you are a “Joe bone spurs” draft avoider trying to project you hatred upon the military. Memorial Day is a solemn day. What a great service today at Arlington! MAGA! Please remember the fallen.
This congress will not work with our president. They won't even come to agreement on simple matters. Besides, congress has limited powers in war.

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