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White House Reviewing Military Plans As Ships Targeted At UAE Port

Aviation Ordnancemen transport a missile aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf, May 10, 2019
Aviation Ordnancemen transport a missile aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf, May 10, 2019

The White House is reviewing military plans that could see the deployment of up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack U.S. forces or accelerated work on nuclear weapons, the New York Times reports.

Citing anonymous administration officials, the newspaper said on May 13 that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plans at a meeting of President Donald Trump's top security aides last week.

Several plans were detailed and "the uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete," according to the Times.

The report said the plans do not call for a land invasion of Iran.

The White House and the Pentagon have not immediately commented on the report, which comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Last week, Washington announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier battle group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf to counter what U.S. officials called "clear indications" of threats from Iran to U.S. interests or its allies in the region.

Early Sunday morning, four ships near the United Arab Emirate port of Fujairah were mysteriously "sabotaged", in what could have been an Iranian supported operation.

Asked whether the United States believed Iran played a role, Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, declined to comment, saying only that US authorities would be assisting the investigation at the request of the UAE which has called the incidents "deliberate sabotage."

But the Associated Press reported Tuesday, quoting a U.S. official, that an American military team sent to investigate gas reached an initial assessment that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to blow large holes in four ships anchored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

The official told AP on Monday that each ship has a 5- to 10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line, and the team’s early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges.

The team of U.S. military experts was sent to investigate the damages at the request of the UAE, but American officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened or any proof as yet about the possible Iranian involvement in the explosions.

The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In New York, the United Nations called on all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace."

Tehran has said Washington was engaging in "psychological warfare."

It also announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The United States a year ago withdrew from the deal and has since imposed increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.

In pulling out of the accord, Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address Iran's missile program or Tehran's alleged support for militants in the region.

With reporting by Reuters, AP and dpa