Two US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that the request for 5,000 more soldiers had been made by US Central Command, but they added it was not clear whether the Pentagon would approve the request.
In a separate report, The Associated Press news agency quoted unidentified officials as saying that the Pentagon on Thursday would present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East.
The officials also said no final decision had been made yet. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.
The Pentagon regularly receives – and declines – requests for additional resources from US fighter commands throughout the world.
“It is unclear at the moment whether or not these discussions take place and if these reports are indeed accurate,” Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC, said. “This is all speculation at this particular point, and we cannot even confirm if indeed such a meeting is taking place and if there is going to be a briefing given to the national security advisers.”
Tehran and Washington have this month been escalating the rhetoric against each other, following US President Donald Trump‘s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up the US military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.
Washington has not publicly shown any evidence of specific intelligence on what it says is an Iranian threat, and its claim has been met with widespread scepticism outside the US.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the reports of additional US troops being sent to the Middle East.
“As a matter of longstanding policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said on Wednesday.
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that while threats from Iran in the Middle East remained high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had “put on hold” the potential for attacks.
The US military accelerated the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Middle East and sent bombers and Patriot missiles to the region earlier this month in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.
Trump has warned that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked US interests in the Middle East.
Iranian officials have previously warned that the US was “playing a dangerous game” by boosting its military might in the Gulf