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US is sending fighter jets and 1,500 more troops to the Middle East

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PENTAGON — The US is deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to defend US forces and allies from Iran, defense officials said Friday, saying the additional forces are needed after intelligence suggested that Iranian-backed forces were preparing to attack US forces in the region.

The US will, in the coming weeks, send the additional troops to operate manned and unmanned strike and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, some of which are already in theater, to US Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East.

The deployment will include a Patriot missile battalion to combat missile threats, reconnaissance aircraft, an engineer element to harden existing defenses, and a fighter jet squadron to provide additional deterrence.

The request for additional force protection came from CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie in response to heightened levels of Iranian aggression, officials said. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan notified Congress of the impending deployment Friday.

The decision follows the rapid deployment of a heavily-armed US Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, a task force consisting of four US Air Force B-52H heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and a Patriot missile battery to the region.

These deployments were in response to what CENTCOM said were “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.”

The briefing Friday was the first time the Pentagon publicly clarified the threat Iran is posing.

A defense official told reporters that in recent weeks, Iranian leaders have repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture. Iranian-backed forces have attacked foreign tankers, hit a pipeline in Saudi Arabia, and fired a rocket into the Green Zone in Iraq. And Iran has reportedly mobilized a modified dhows cable of launching cruise missiles, and officials said there continue to be credible threats to US forces.

The Pentagon declined to provide evidence for its claims, saying it was unable to share the intelligence at this time.

Defense officials speaking to reporters Friday stressed that the US is not seeking war with Iran. The US is moving forward with deterrence as the primary goal.

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