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Trump Says He’s Sending 1500 Troops to Deter Iran

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The Defense Department made the announcement just a day after President Donald Trump, while declaring Iran “a very dangerous player” and “a nation of terror,” said he did not think such a deployment would be needed. “I don’t think we’re going to need them, I really don’t,” he said, though he said he’d send troops if necessary.

And so he will, notwithstanding his oft-repeated desire to avoid war and his vocal distaste for foreign entanglements. Just Thursday he remarked of the Middle East, “I don’t think we ever should have been there, okay? I inherited this mess.” Yet he has also twice launched strikes against the Syrian regime in response to chemical-weapons attacks, reinforced the United States position in Afghanistan, and continued drone strikes against militants in Somalia and Yemen.

With the territorial defeat of ISIS, which has coincided with the Trump administration’s escalating economic pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic, the incentives for cooperation between the U.S. and Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East appears to be fraying. Earlier this month, National Security Adviser John Bolton, citing unspecified intelligence of Iranian threats, announced the U.S. would send a carrier strike group to the region. The Pentagon followed that up with an announcement it would send anti-missile batteries—though these were only a partial replacement of military assets withdrawn from the region weeks before. On Friday, Gilday cited “multiple credible reports” he said showed Iranian proxy groups planning to attack U.S. forces.

Pentagon officials have characterized the new deployments as aimed at force protection and deterrence—essentially, defensive moves. The administration’s critics, and particularly Democrats in Congress who have been briefed on the intelligence, don’t buy this explanation; they have repeatedly cited the risks of provoking Iran into a possible military confrontation.

“I’m gravely concerned that we’ve got folks who are encouraging or tolerating his bumbling forward into a major deployment into the Middle East without a clear strategy,” the Democratic Senator Chris Coons said in a television interview earlier this week. A spokesman for Coons, who was briefed on the intelligence about Iranian threats earlier this week, said he hadn’t seen much from the administration he hadn’t seen in news reports.

Administration allies like Tom Cotton, Republican Senator from Arkansas, have voiced more alarm about what the intelligence shows. “There can be no doubt that we’ve seen serious, credible and increased reporting of threats from Iran across the Middle East—whether [from] their own forces like the Revolutionary Guard corps or through their proxies like the rebel groups they support in places like Yemen, or paramilitary forces in Iraq,” he told Fox News.

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