The Pentagon is analyzing a U.S. military request to send 5,000 more troops to the Middle East amid growing tensions with Iran, Reuters is reporting, quoting two U.S. officials.
The officials, who spoke to Reuters on May 22 on condition of anonymity, said U.S. Central Command made the request, but added that it was unclear whether the Defense Department would approve it.
Relations between Iran and the United States have plummeted since last year when President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran that curbed Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.
The United States this month beefed up its military presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing "imminent threats" from Iran, prompting growing concerns of a possible military conflict with Iran.
The Pentagon regularly receives -- and declines -- requests for additional troops and equipment from U.S. commands across the world. One of the officials said the requested troops would be defensive.
The Pentagon declined to comment.
"As a matter of long-standing policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces," Pentagon spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich said on May 22.
It is unclear if any specific request will ultimately be presented to the White House. The request for 5,000 additional troops was first reported by Reuters.
U.S. officials have said there are credible threats from Iran against U.S. forces and American interests in the Middle East. The United States has not publicly provided evidence to back the claims.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on May 21 told the media that the Trump administration seeks to prevent further escalation.
"This is about deterrence, not about war. We are not about going to war," Shanahan told reporters after briefing U.S. lawmakers together with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Shanahan said that while threats from Iran in the Middle East remain high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had "put on hold" the potential for attacks on Americans.
The U.S. military has sped up the deployment of an aircraft carrier group to the Middle East, and sent bombers and Patriot missiles to the region earlier this month.
U.S. government sources said last week they believe Iran encouraged Huthi militants in Yemen or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out attacks on tanker ships off the United Arab Emirates.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said on May 22 that Iran's youth will witness the demise of Israel and American civilization.
"You young people should be assured that you will witness the demise of the enemies of humanity, meaning the degenerate American civilization, and the demise of Israel," Khamenei said in a meeting with students, without giving further details.
Trump has warned that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East.
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