Democrats called proposals to send an extra 10,000 US troops to the Middle East “deeply troubling” as they renewed efforts to undermine Donald Trump’s legal authority to launch a war against Iran. US Central Command asked for the troops, and weapons systems including Patriot missile batteries and more ships, and senior defence officials briefed the White House on the plans yesterday [THURS]. A Pentagon official said the extra forces were intended as a “deterrent” and not a move to provoke Iran. The “defensive” plan had been formulating for some time and was not a response to any very recent events. Any eventual buildup would depend on how much of the various requests from Centcom commander General Kenneth McKenzie were approved. Patrick Shanahan, the acting US defence secretary, confirmed the Pentagon was considering sending additional US troops to the Middle East. He said: “What we’re looking at is – Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East? It may involve sending additional troops.” US troops launch an F-18 Super Hornet from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. Credit: AP Democrats in Congress criticised the move, even suggesting it could lead to war within weeks. Tom Udall, a Democrat senator, said: “At the end of this week we [Congress] are going on break. With this building up there’s a huge potential for miscalculation. When we return, we could be in the middle of a war.” Democrats have been ramping up efforts to rein back Mr Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran using the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The AUMF was introduced after the September 11, 2001 attacks and allows a president to pursue terrorists around the world without seeking approval from Congress. A bid by Democrats to specifically exclude Iran from the AUMF was blocked by Republicans on the senate foreign affairs committee yesterday. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a government meeting in the capital Tehran Credit: AFP Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat congresswoman and former CIA officer, said the developments were “deeply troubling”. She said: “We’ve seen a general lack of strategy in the way we are engaging with Iran. “Congress holds the authority to approve war powers. If we are in any way moving towards using troops then Congress needs to be involved in that.” Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed his preference to reduce the US troop presence in the Middle East. But Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said: “We’re evaluating the risks, making sure that we have it right. The exact force posture, the president is looking at that every day. “You can be sure that President Trump will ensure that we have all the resources necessary to respond in the event that Iran should decide to attack Americans or American interests.” Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said there would be no talks with the US “under any circumstances”.
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