Trump considering plan to send 120,000 troops to Middle East as Iran tensions heighten, report suggests

Tom Embury-Dennis

The Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks US forces or accelerates its work on nuclear weapons.

Citing unnamed administration officials, The New York Times reported that acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan at a meeting last week of Donald Trump's top security aides.

The request for military options from the Pentagon was ordered by White House hardliners led by the president's national security adviser John Bolton, the newspaper claimed.

The plan does not call for a military invasion of the Islamic Republic, a move which would need far more troops, officials reportedly said.

The White House has been contacted for comment.

Tensions between Iran and the US have intensified since Mr Trump imposed increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of a landmark 2015 deal designed to curb Iran's nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Mr Trump wants to force Tehran to agree to a broader arms control accord and has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what US officials have said are threats to American troops in the region.

Iran has accused the US of engaging in "psychological warfare" and called America's military presence "a target" rather than a threat.

It has also said it will not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Among those who reportedly attended the meeting last week were CIA director Gina Haspel, director of national intelligence Dan Coats and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joseph Dunford.

Several plans were detailed, The New York Times said, and "the uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete".

Additional reporting by Reuters