The US Department of Defense is considering a US military request to send about 5,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran, two US officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
The officials, who spoke condition of anonymity, said the request had been made by US Central Command but added that it was not clear whether the Pentagon would approve the request.
The Pentagon regularly receives, and declines, requests from combatant commands throughout the world for additional resources, the report noted.
One of the officials said the requested troops would be defensive in nature.
Tensions between the US and Iran have increased recently in the wake of the US military’s deployment of an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Middle East. US officials said the move was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
While President Donald Trump has urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear program, he has also made clear he could not rule out a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
On Monday, Trump said that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against US interests in the Middle East, though he stressed he was willing to have talks with Iran "when they're ready."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later said that he favors talks and diplomacy but not under current conditions.
"Today's situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only," said Rouhani.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan had presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.