On Monday afternoon, US Central Command said the US is set to send an additional 1,000 troops to the Mideast, in yet another sign that tensions with Iran are running dangerously high.
Disconcertingly, Centcom’s announcement came just hours after the Jerusalem Post (citing “diplomatic sources at the UN headquarters in New York who spoke to Maariv”) claimed the Pentagon is considering a tactical air strike on an Iranian facility linked to the country’s nuclear program.
Reuters tipped the new troop deployment about 30 minutes before it was officially announced.
“In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East”, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, in a statement.
These troops will be on top of the 1,500 personnel the Pentagon said would be deployed last month, following attacks on tankers and oil infrastructure.
“We have had multiple credible reports that Iranian proxy groups intend to attack US personnel in the Middle East”, the US said on May 24. “While we won’t be able to declassify all the available intelligence we believe that Iran’s actions and threats are troubling, escalatory and dangerous to our US forces and those of our regional partners”.
On Monday, Shanahan said the events of the last several days back up that intelligence. “The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region”, he claimed.
Mike Pompeo insists last week’s attacks on a pair of vessels in the Gulf of Oman were orchestrated by the IRGC. Tehran denies the allegations and not everyone on the world stage is prepared to accept the evidence the State department has released, including the grainy video shown to the public.
As we suggested on several occasions last week, the problem for Pompeo is that thanks to how dishonest this administration is, and because John Bolton is part of the foreign policy calculus, the world is inclined to be more skeptical about the allegations against Iran than it otherwise might.
“Iran could very well have been behind the tanker attacks, as the Trump administration claims, but the lingering doubts about the White House’s account, expressed by friends and adversaries alike, are the real story here”, the Washington Post wrote Monday, adding that “there appears to be great doubt, and the fault lies with the administration’s flimsy and unconvincing case to counter what it claims is an increasing threat from Tehran.”
That is the same problem Trump has with other key issues. In fact, you could just replace “Tehran” with “migrants” in that excerpt from WaPo and you’d have an accurate assessment of the border situation. To wit: “There appears to be great doubt, and the fault lies with the administration’s flimsy and unconvincing case to counter what it claims is an increasing threat from migrants.” See? This is all about credibility, a commodity this administration is woefully bereft of.
While Iran’s culpability in last week’s maritime incident is still in doubt, Tehran left nothing to speculation when it comes to whether the country will continue to comply with the letter of the nuclear accord in the face of ongoing US economic pressure. On Monday, a spokesman for the country’s atomic energy agency said Iran intends to violate a key element of the 2015 deal within days.
Now, it would appear, the US is edging even closer to armed conflict with the IRGC. At the very least, the total number of new troops deployed or set to be deployed to the region specifically to counter purported “Iranian aggression”, is roughly 2,500.
The Jerusalem Post article linked above suggests things could get far more serious than a “defensive” troop deployment. Hopefully, that reporting turns out to be bogus and for the time being, we’re going to assume it is. If the US were to bomb targets inside Iran, it would mark an unthinkable escalation with ramifications nobody besides Bolton even wants to consider.
Whatever the case, the important thing to note is that this is, unequivocally, the fault of Donald Trump. That’s not a partisan assessment – it just is the case. Iran has operated strategically through its various regional proxies for decades. While the war in Syria did help bolster Hezbollah’s battlefield bonafides (which really didn’t need further bolstering) and while the Quds’ influence in Iraq is obviously heavy-handed, there is nothing “new” about any of this.
The Trump administration would claim that’s the point – that somebody has to stop it at long last, and this president is the man for the job.
But that’s contrary to the narrative which is being fed to the public. The American people are being led to believe that recent events are not only extraordinary, but in fact constitute “unprovoked” aggression, when, in fact, this is arguably just business as usual and to the extent it’s not, it’s been instigated by the White House.