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Trump orders 1,500 troops to Middle East

Trump to order more troops to Middle East
Trump to order additional forces to Middle East 00:34

President Trump is ordering more troops to the Middle East as tensions between the United States and Iran continue to rise. The U.S. will also send more Patriot missile batteries and other force protection systems, and will be designed for the long-haul confrontation with Iran, CBS News' David Martin reports, citing U.S. officials.

The move follows Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan's denial of reports Thursday that between 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops could be sent to the region to defend against the potential threat by Iran. 

Shanahan told reporters Thursday, "There is no 10,000, there's no 5,000, and that's not accurate," 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. Shanahan he said his focus right now is determining "the right force protection."

Mr. Trump confirmed that the number was "about 1,500 people" before departing to Japan. Congressional aides confirm to CBS News that Congress was previously notified the administration's plans to send troops to the Middle East. 

"We want to have protection the Middle East," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. He said he was sending a "relatively small number" of "very talented" people to the region. Martin reports that the move is considered to be a very limited buildup – with about 900 new troops plus 600 who were already in place.  

The move has already faced blowback as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, who said the move to increase troop presence is "unsettling" without first establishing a clear strategy in the region.

"Without a clearly articulated strategy, adding more personnel and mission systems seems unwise, and appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran," Smith said in a statement after the president's remarks. 

He added, "I look forward to hearing from Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan how this decision complements a broader strategy in the region, which focuses on de-escalation and diplomacy first."

Only last week, Mr. Trump insisted he wasn't considering sending more troops to the Middle East to counter Iran, after the New York Times reported he might. 

"I think it's fake news, OK?" Mr. Trump told reporters while leaving the White House Tuesday. "Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we would send a hell of a lot more troops than that."

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.  In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Vice Admiral Michael Gilday said there is high confidence the leadership in Iran was responsible for all the attacks of the past weeks – the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the Saudi pipeline and the Green Zone in Baghdad.  He presented no evidence, however. 

Strife between the two nations has increased over the course of Mr. Trump's tenure in office since his decision a year ago to pull the U.S. out of the internationally-accepted Iran nuclear deal. 

The president has been openly disdainful of the Iranian regime -- after a rocket landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, he warned Iranian leaders not to threaten the U.S. again or risk facing Iran's "official end."  

Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday, however that he didn't think Iran wanted to pick a fight with the U.S., later predicting that things are going to be "very good in the Middle East."

David Martin and Emily Tillett contributed to this report. 

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