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Wednesday , June 26 2019

Pentagon Middle East buildup – Up to 10,000 troops sought

WASHINGTON, May 23, (Agencies): Rising tensions between the United States and Iran prompted some Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to call for the repeal of a law that presidents have used for two decades to justify US military action around the world.Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat, and Thomas Massie, a Republican, held a news conference with other members of the House of Representatives to call for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed days after the Sept 11 attacks on New York on Washington.A House subcommittee on Tuesday approved an amendment to a defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF.

The lawmakers said that, after nearly 18 years, it was time for Congress to repeal and replace the law, stressing that it was too broad from the start and saying it definitely should not be used to justify war with Iran.Washington and Tehran have this month escalated rhetoric against each other, following President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up of the US military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

File Photo: Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne assemble before leaving to move to forward positions at Camp New Jersey in the Kuwaiti desert Thursday, March 20, 2003. (AP)

Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization, said it has been used “as a blank check for endless war by three administrations.”When she voted against the 2001 AUMF, Lee said it gave too much leeway for presidents to pursue military action. “It was so broad, it covered almost every military operation in perpetuity,” she said. Lawmakers have expressed fears that Trump might order an attack on Iran.

Top administration officials sought to tamp down such concerns at classified briefings on Tuesday for every member of Congress at which they also described what they see as a heightened threat from long-term rival Tehran. The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats , US officials said.

The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces. Officials said the move is not in response to any new threat from Iran but is aimed at reinforcing security in the region. 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 officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced. Thursday morning’s meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer, and it wasn’t clear if a decision would be made during the session. Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday Trump was evaluating the force posture in the region “every day.” “We’re evaluating the risks, making sure that we have it right,” he told “Fox and Friends.”

US officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats but indicated they initially involved missiles loaded onto small Iranian boats. This week officials said the missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran’s shore, but other maritime threats continue. Sending more troops could also raise questions on Capitol Hill. During back-to-back closed briefings for the House and Senate on Tuesday, defense leaders told congressional officials the US doesn’t want to go to war with Iran and wants to de-escalate the situation. Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told lawmakers the US is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while accusing Tehran of threatening US interests in the Mideast.

Shanahan told reporters, “Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.” Many in Congress are skeptical of the administration’s approach to Iran, questioning whether it is responding to significant new Iranian threats or escalating a situation that could lead to war. CNN first reported that the Pentagon will brief the White House on a plan that could send thousands of additional US troops to the Middle East. Air Force Col Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment, saying, “As a matter of long-standing policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential or alleged future operations or plans.”

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