US officials to discuss sending more troops to Middle East
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US officials to discuss sending more troops to Middle East

CNN’s website carried the report on Sunday, citing “two US officials with direct knowledge of the discussions.” It said the debate is to take place among “Trump's national security team” this week. The officials said it is not yet clear how soon Trump will be briefed and when a decision will be made. The report came after the United States blamed Iran for separate blasts on board two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman on Thursday. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has released a video after the blasts purportedly showing "Iranian sailors" removing a mine from one vessel’s hull earlier that day. Germany and Japan, which owns one of the tankers, say the alleged evidence is insufficient. The US has remarkably stoked tensions with Iran during Trump’s presidency under his administration’s trademark policy of “maximum pressure.” Last May, it exited a multi-national nuclear agreement with Tehran and returned the sanctions that had been lifted by the accord. Washington has also dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group, a bomber task force, an amphibious assault ship, and some 1,500 more forces to the region. Iran has sternly warned the US against escalating the situation, urging it to return to the negotiation table it once left after relieving the pressure it has mounted on the country. CNN pointed to comments made by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Friday, during which, it said, he had hinted at upcoming discussion about sending additional troops to the region. "When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, Japanese ship, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, 15% of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, so we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate but we also need to broaden our support for this international situation," Shanahan told CNN. Washington has also blamed Tehran for similar incidents afflicting four oil tankers, including vessels from Saudi Arabia and Norway, just outside the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz on May 12. In June, the United Nations Security Council held a meeting on the incident, but member states refused to blame any party despite Abu Dhabi's claim that a "state actor" was behind the incident. Iran has roundly rejected being involved in either case. Upon being notified of the Thursday incident, Iranian authorities dispatched rescue missions to the area to try and douse the fire. Iranian vessels also took in the tankers’ crewmembers, transferring them to the southern Iranian Jask Port.

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