Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the additional deployment of troops was for defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on June 18, 2019

About 1,000 more troops will be sent to the Middle East, Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced.

He said the additional deployment of troops was for defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US have mounted after two oil tankers were attacked – one set on fire – in the Gulf of Oman, near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Iran. The US blamed Iran for the attacks, which the country has vehemently denied.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.

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The additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East is in addition to a 1,500 troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

US President Donald Trump declared Iran was responsible for the attacks in the Gulf of Oman, pointing to video released by the US Navy that they claimed showed an Iranian vessel removing an unexploded mine. The US Navy overnight released declassified images, maintaining Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy is responsible for the attacks.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy attach mines to the oil tanker. Photo: US Navy
Imagery taken from a US Navy MH-60R helicopter of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy after removing an unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous. Photo: US Navy

Photo: US Navy
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy leave the scene after removing the unexploded limpet mine. Photo: US Navy

“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” Trump said during an interview on Fox & Friends last Friday (local time). “They’re a nation of terror and they’ve changed a lot since I’ve been president, I can tell you.”

Iran has increased the potential for a US attack by announcing it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by the 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions. A White House National Security Council spokesman said it amounted to “nuclear blackmail”, Reuters reported.

The 2015 accord, which Iran and the other signatories have maintained following Trump’s decision, caps Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg enriched to 3.67 per cent.

But Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday (local time): “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate,” he told state TV, adding that “the move will be reversed once other parties fulfil their commitments.”