Early Friday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted: “The story today that we are sending 12,000 troops to Saudi Arabia is false or, to put it more accurately, Fake News!”
The story today that we are sending 12,000 troops to Saudi Arabia is false or, to put it more accurately, Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2019
News agencies reported this week that Since last spring, the US has added to the region troops as well as ships, aircraft and other assets, to confront the a growing threat from Iran. The Pentagon also said it was weighing sending several thousand more troops, including air, naval and ground personnel, and weapons systems.
In fact, as recently as Friday morning, the Associated Press reported that John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators on Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “intends to make changes” to the number of troops deployed in the region.
According to the AP, other officials said they consider sending between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East. The AP report also stressed that all these defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, pointed out there were no final decisions yet on this matter.
This obviously reveals a conflict between the president and his generals on what to do about Iran’s increasing aggression.
On Wednesday, a US Navy warship has seized a “significant cache” of Iranian guided missile parts that was on its way to Iranian proxy rebels in Yemen, US officials said on Wednesday (see: US Seizes Iranian Guided Missile Parts Going to Yemen Rebels). The officials believe it was the first time Iran has shipped this kind of sophisticated components to Yemen.
Trump’s tweet referred directly to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday, headlined “Trump Administration Considers 14,000 More Troops for Mideast.” The story cited US officials who said the Trump administration is contemplating a significant expansion of its military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops.
Trump was asked about the planned troops expansion on Thursday and responded: “There might be a threat and if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we’ll be announcing whatever we may be doing – may or may not be doing.”
At a Thursday White House luncheon with representatives from the UN Security Council, President Trump said Iran is “killing protesters. They’re killing a lot of people, and they’re not treating their people properly.”
But then Defense Dept. Press Secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted on Thursday: “This reporting by the @WSJ is wrong. The U.S. is not sending 14,000 troops to the Middle East to confront Iran.” And she enclosed a link to the WSJ report.
— Alyssa Farah (@PentagonPresSec) December 5, 2019
And that’s literally all she wrote.