Tensions are on the rise in the Middle East. There’s a lot of news about 14,000 troops headed over to the Persian Gulf. The question is, is it fake news or not? Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, is the first one to deny the reports of proposing an increase of US military presence in the area.
The denials are causing people’s eyebrows to raise. While he’s denying that 14,000 are being sent, he’s wording the denial in such a way that many wonder if there are still a large number of troops being sent – just not as many as 14,000.
A statement issued by the Pentagon explains that the department of defense has repeatedly stated that they were never “discussing or considering” the idea of 14,000 added troops into the Middle East. Esper is quoted to say that reports identifying this are “flat out wrong.”
Esper has specifically clung to the denial of 14,000 troops as opposed to ruling out any increase whatsoever. This is why so many people are holding onto the idea that there will be an increase in troops. Now, it’s a matter of finding out just how many could be deployed.
Another reason why people are talking about a planned increase is due to congressional testimony made by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, John Rood. He answered a question regarding proposed troop increases that left the possibility wide open. He was referring to deterrence for Iran and “dynamic adjustments to our posture.”
Rood has said that the threat situation is being evaluated and the secretary has the ability to deploy additional forces if he chooses based on what’s being observed over there. Additionally, based on what is being seen with the threat picture, there may be the necessity to adjust the posture of the force.
The Wall Street Journal was the one that first started of the story, reporting a 14,000 troop figure. Trump was the first to label it as fake news. It wasn’t long after that CNN reported that troop deployments could be considerably smaller – more along the lines of 3000 or 4000.
There has been a lot of discussion about sending troops, ships, and other military assets to the region as a way to deter Iran. However, such action has faced substantial resistance from the Pentagon, particularly with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. Milley along with other Pentagon officials find the proposal to be problematic due to conflicts with the way that the Pentagon wants to shift from the Middle East to East Asia.
According to Rood, there is a legit new intelligence that would require an increase in US presence within the region as a way to deter Iran. This includes the possibility that Iran has brought additional short-range missiles into Iraq which leads to a bigger Iranian threat to US forces as well as the interests within the region.
If there is going to be the possibility of Iranian aggression, it would make sense to deploy more troops – though there are many reports as to how many troops would actually be deployed. With Iran already deploying missiles in Iraq as early as 2018, additional missiles would not be a surprise.
General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, is the one calling for more troops as he is responsible for the Middle East region as a whole. McKenzie is also a proponent of “dozens” of added ships being included in the proposal.
There is a significant amount of discussion and arguments regarding how easily Iran can be deterred. McKenzie suggests that it is going to be more difficult than Rood has acknowledged.
Milley has also been extremely vocal in warning against creating a war with Iran, particularly because it could disrupt the strategic shift being made to emphasize the great power competition that’s taking place with Russia and China. He suggests that it’s best not to deal simultaneously with the Middle East as well as Russia and China.
Right now, it’s simply a matter of waiting for additional intelligence to come in. Meanwhile, Trump and a number of others are looking to avoid a military confrontation with Iran if at all possible.
It’s considered highly unpopular, and during a presidential election year, it will be avoided at all costs. It’s simply a matter of waiting to find out whether Iran is going to back down out of Iraq or if a military presence will simply be the only way to deal with the problem effectively.