President Trump denied a New York Times report that Defense Department officials were discussing a plan to send 120,000 troops to the Gulf to counter any Iranian attack on American assets in the region or if Iran ramps up its nuclear weapons program.
“I think it’s fake news, OK?” Trump said to reporters at the White House. “Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Meanwhile, the region continues to heat up as Iran or its proxies continue to attack American allies in the region. After four tankers – two of them Saudi – were sabotaged over the weekend in the United Arab Emirates in a sophisticated attack, two crucial pumping stations on a strategically important Saudi Arabian pipeline were attacked by seven drones armed with explosives.
Watch the drone attack:
The attack was claimed by the Houthi’s, Iran’s proxy militia in Yemen, whose spokesman commented on the “successful operation,” saying, “We found assistance from people living in Saudi Arabia, and we had excellent intelligence.”
The U.S. blamed, however, Iran for the attacks, while the Saudis, perhaps in an effort to de-escalate tension with Iran, took the Houthis at face value.
It was the deepest attack to date by the Houthis into Saudi territory and quite significant since it targeted Saudi oil production.
“It is not a coincidence that these attacks in Saudi Arabia come a few days after Saudi oil tankers were attacked in the UAE,” Clarion Arab Affairs Analyst and Shillman Fellow Ran Meir said. “It also doesn’t seem probable that the Houthi’s would have this type of technology, and that they would take it upon themselves to make such a decision to attack Saudi oil assets within Saudi Arabia. It seems that, once again, Iran is working behind the scenes through its proxies to do damage and deliver a message about its capabilities.”
Iran has already threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for oil exports from the Gulf States. With this move, it is saying, “We can threaten major pipelines as well.”
The attack follows the announcement that the U.S. sent the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region after receiving an intelligence warning that Iran was planning to attack American assets.
The U.S. also ordered all non-emergency government employees to leave Iraq immediately, saying “The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq.”
The order included all non-essential personnel at both the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and U.S. consulate in Erbil.