WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops to counter Iran, U.S. officials said.
The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May. President Donald Trump is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month, those officials said.
Trump, facing an election next year, has long sought to exit foreign entanglements and avoid new conflicts. But on Iran — and partly at the behest of Israel — he is convinced of the need to counter the threat his aides say Tehran poses, the officials said. He also could approve a smaller U.S. deployment, the officials said.
There is growing fear among U.S. military and other administration officials that an attack on U.S. interests and forces could leave the U.S. with few options in the region, officials said. By sending additional military resources to the region, the administration would be presenting a more credible deterrent to Tehran, which has been blamed for a series of attacks, including one in September against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied involvement.
The new U.S. deployment also would be designed as a deterrent against possible Iranian retaliation for mounting sanctions under the administration’s economic-pressure campaign. Some officials worry, however, that adding more military resources to the mix could provoke another attack or put the region on track for a dangerous and unpredictable conflict.
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