US President Trump’s top national security aides held a meeting last Thursday, May 9th, to discuss an updated military plan to send thousands of American troops to the middle east to counter the threats by Iran, the New York Times has reported.
Citing administration officials, the US newspaper said that Acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.
The officials added that these revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. It does not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops.
These developments come while an American military team's initial assessment is that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives on Sunday, May 12th, to blow large holes in four ships anchored near the UAE economic waters, a US official said on Monday, May 13th.
The official said each ship had a 5- to 10-foot (150-300 cm) hole in it, near or just below the water line, and the team's early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges, AP has reported.
A team of US military experts was sent to investigate the damage, but American officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened or any proof as yet about the possible Iranian involvement in the explosions.
The official was not authorised to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Gulf officials have characterised the damage to the tankers as sabotage. Two Saudi oil tankers, two commercial vessels, all suffered similar damage on Sunday.
Two days ago, the United States warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and America has moved additional ships and aircraft into the region.
The incident comes after months of increasing diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran. The US accuses it of threatening American interests and allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The New York Times report said the 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.
It added that some senior American officials said the plans are still in a very early stage, but it shows how dangerous the Iran threat has become. Meanwhile others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.
On Monday, when asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, President Trump said, “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”
The report stated that there are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.