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Defense secretary denies reports on number of troops being sent to Middle East

Trump discusses sending more troops to Middle East

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied reports that between 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops could be sent to the Middle East to defend against a potential threat by Iran.

"There is no 10,000, there's no 5,000, and that's not accurate," he told reporters, referring to a Reuters report that the Pentagon was considering sending 5,000 defensive troops to the region, and an Associated Press report that up to 10,000 could be deployed. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday, he said his focus is on determining "the right force protection" in the region.

He promised to provide an update "as soon as there's a change" and said again, "Those numbers are not correct."

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been running higher since the U.S. earlier this month suddenly deployed U.S. bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over threats that have not been specifically described by the U.S. 

Last week, officials from the United Arab Emirates claimed four oil tankers anchored in the Middle East were sabotaged. Yemeni rebels allied with Iran also launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia. 

On Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" The president did not elaborate on his tweet, which came after a rocket fell in Baghdad's Green Zone, near the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

Emily Tillett contributed to this report.