In a meeting last Thursday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan revealed a new military proposal to send upwards of 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks American soldiers or ramps up research on nuclear weaponry, according to administration officials who spoke to The New York Times.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, commanded the new plan, which does not mandate the deployment of a ground strike, which would require many more soldiers. The proposal reveals the influential role that Bolton plays within the Trump administration.
It is unknown the extent to which President Donald Trump has been briefed on the new plan and if the president would deploy so many American troops to the region from which he has sought to de-escalate involvement.
While some officials argue that the plan reveal the threatening nature of the Iranian government, others say that a more diplomatic approach is needed to alleviate current tensions.
European officials met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday and expressed worry that the scare tactic could cause U.S.-Iran tensions to erupt unintentionally.
More than six U.S. national security officials who are knowledgeable of the plan and its details spoke with The New York Times. Many expressed shock over the figure of 120,000 troops.
“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” said National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis in an email on Monday. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”