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US military exploring plan to deploy 120,000 troops to Middle East

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The US military briefed President Donald Trump’s national-security aides on a revamped plan that could result in the deployment of up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East, according to national-security officials cited in a New York Times report published Monday.

The reported plan calls for the deployment of troops in the event that Iran either attacks US forces or ramps up its nuclear-weapons program, several unnamed US officials told The Times.

The plan does not indicate whether US troops would invade Iran, the newspaper said. The number of troops deployed to the Middle East would be close to the roughly 130,600 service members deployed to Iraq in 2003.

The latest blueprint is an updated version of a destabilizing cyberwarfare operation called “Nitro Zeus,” which would target Iran’s power grid and military. Some officials reportedly said the plan was updated in past years and the latest changes were influenced by national security adviser John Bolton, a hawkish foreign policy adviser.

Read more: The US is sending a ton of firepower to take on Iran — here’s everything headed its way

News of the plan comes amid increased tensions between the US and Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani indicated he would scuttle his country’s nuclear deal after President Donald Trump withdrew and more US sanctions were slapped against Iran.

US defense officials also cited “indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces” earlier in May. Israeli intelligence officials uncovered a potential attack against US interests, which fueled Bolton’s “unrelenting” rhetoric toward the Iranians, Axios reported.

Another CNN report citing US officials suggested that a potential attack would have targeted US forces in Syria and Iraq.

In a show of force, the US deployed several military assets to the region. A carrier strike group and bomber task force were sent to the Middle East to “send a clear and unmistakable message.”

Iran responded by downplaying the threat and claimed the US “wouldn’t dare to launch military action against us.”

“If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head,” Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Amirali Hajizadeh reportedly said.

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