The U.S. will send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East for “defensive purposes,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Monday.
The decision came in response to a request from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, said Shanahan.
“I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” he said in a statement.
The decision also follows last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. Washington said Iran was behind the attacks, an accusation denied by Tehran.
“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,” said Shanahan.
Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since last year, when the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear pact between the Islamic Republic and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
President Donald Trump’s administration has pursued a number of actions meant to scuttle the agreement, including the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil.
In response, Tehran vowed to continue exporting oil despite the U.S. sanctions and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it is prevented from using the strategic waterway.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” said Shanahan, defending Monday’s move to safeguard American personnel in the region and protect U.S. interests.
“We will continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats,” he added.