US President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that he has decided to deploy some 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to protect American service members and interests in the region. Trump said that Iran does not want a war with the United States but insisted that Tehran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
Drums of War
US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in a statement later on Friday said the deployment will also include a Patriot battalion, a fighter aircraft squadron, and reconnaissance aircraft. Pentagon officials claimed the move was in response to credible intelligence that Iran was planning to attack US and allied forces in the region.
US-Iranian tensions rose to new levels when the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran on the one year anniversary of Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. On that very same day, 8 May, Tehran announced that it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels, citing the US violation of the treaty.
Former US Army Major and historian Todd Pierce said that the details of the build-up parallel previous US preparations before launching full-scale hostilities in earlier conflicts.
"It sounds like they’re gearing up for war, with this as additional necessary step in an incremental build-up as we’ve seen in the past", he said. "It’s to be expected that when Iran is attacked they will respond in some way. Therefore this ‘protective equipment’, the Patriot batteries have to be in place".
However, other aspects reveal the real intention behind the new deployment, Pierce explained.
"The Fighter Squadron gives this away with the disingenuous claim they’re for "deterrence", when it is clear it is the US who is preparing to attack. Think Iraq — 2003, and how we moved forces to Saudi Arabia in 1990 in preparation for our attack", he said.
Trump Caves to Swamp
The US government has been building up forces in the Middle East for weeks now, driven by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said Washington is sending ships and aircraft carriers to the region to send Tehran a "clear message".
Former US Army Colonel Doug Macgregor, a leading tactician, military historian and commander of US armor in the Battle of 73 Easting in the 1991 Gulf War observed that the deployment indicated a compromise reached between the US president and his more hawkish military advisers and the establishment, often referred to as the "swamp".
"Trump appears to have compromised with the Swamp on 1,500", Macgregor said. "Remember, Trump is a team of one. Practically no one in the White House defense and foreign policy apparatus agrees with Trump’s desire to avoid war and pull out forces".
The figure of 1,500 troops therefore bore all the hallmarks of a compromise number that pleased no one, Macgregor explained.
The president went through a similar process in July 2017 when then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis wanted to send 50,000 troops to Iraq, Macgregor recalled, while Trump only supported 5,000.
"[Former President Barack] Obama went through a similar experience on Afghanistan. The original number was close to 100,000, but he would only sign up for 40,000", he said.
Macgregor argued that Trump has only himself to blame for surrounding himself with extreme hardliners.
"It’s his own fault, but he’s failed to deal with this problem for two years", he said. Trump has found himself isolated among a large mass of hawks while the American people want peace, Macgregor warned.
"Seventy five percent of the American electorate is opposed to conflict in the Middle East and any war with Iran or Venezuela. So he has the electorate behind him, but inside the Washington beltway, 90 percent are [for] hostilities with Iran", Macgregor concluded.
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