- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2019

A top Pentagon official said Thursday that the military is considering sending additional troops to the Middle East to counter new Iranian threats to U.S. interests in the region.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was responding to a Wednesday Wall Street Journal report that said the Pentagon could deploy up to an additional 14,000 troops to the region to counter Iran. Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah denied the front-page Wall Street Journal article in a tweet, suggesting the Journal’s number was inaccurate.

But Mr. Rood also acknowledged, “We’re always considering changes to our force posture.”

The U.S. currently has about 60,000 to 80,000 troops deployed to the Middle East, according to defense officials.

When pressed by Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, on the deployment, Mr. Rood could be seen whispering to his colleague that it’s “not 14,000” troops that are being deployed, implying that ground troops are being deployed but the specific number is in dispute.

Mr. Hawley demanded a clear response from Defense Secretary Mark Esper by the end of the day.

Just one day prior, Mr. Rood told a group of reporters that the U.S. remains “concerned” about Iranian aggression and has sent Iran “clear and blunt” warnings against possible military action.

“We continue to see indicators … that potential Iranian aggression could occur,” he said.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran spiked over the summer after Iran seized several foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, shot down an unmanned U.S. drone, and allegedly launched an attack on a key Saudi Arabian oil facility.

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