/Donald Trump Risks ‘Incendiary’ Iran Encounter With ‘Massive’ U.S. Troop Deployment to Middle East, Warns James Clapper

Donald Trump Risks ‘Incendiary’ Iran Encounter With ‘Massive’ U.S. Troop Deployment to Middle East, Warns James Clapper

James Clapper has warned that deploying tens of thousands more American troops to the Middle East would increase the chances of armed conflict with Iran through an “accidental encounter that could become incendiary.”

The retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general and former director of national intelligence made his comments on CNN in response to a New York Times report that the White House is considering sending 120,000 extra troops to the Middle East.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan to President Donald Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, the Times reported, though it is not clear if the president himself has been briefed on the details.

The plan would deploy troops in response to an Iranian attack on American forces or an acceleration by Tehran of its nuclear program. However, a ground invasion would require a greater number of troops and was not part of the plan.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the country. Responding to suggestions that Iran is behind the sabotaging of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the president said Monday that provocations by Tehran would be “a very bad mistake” and “they will suffer greatly.”

“This may have been the top end of perhaps a series of options from a lesser deployment to a greater deployment,” Clapper told CNN’s New Day on Tuesday morning, adding that 120,000 troops is “obviously a massive deployment.”

“I was serving as the chief of air force intelligence in 1990, 91, and I couldn’t help but recall that era when the then Bush administration did a lot of public preparation for a massive deployment to restore Kuwait’s sovereignty,” Clapper said.

“And there’s been none of that for a deployment of that size. [If] we’re going to send our sons and daughters off to a potential broad Middle East war, you would think there’d be more preparation publicly to educate the public about why this is necessary.

“I hope that they’re not contemplating a ground invasion or anything of that sort. But 120,000 additional presumably air and naval forces over and above what’s already there, which is quite substantial, is massive.”

Clapper continued: “There is always the likelihood, if you have, you know, our forces and Iranian forces in proximity to one another, there’s always the opportunity for an accidental encounter that could become incendiary.

“Depending on where these forces are deployed, and particularly if we bolster our presence in the Strait of Hormuz, that heightens the probability for an inadvertent encounter between Iranian and U.S. forces. So, just because of the numbers, the probability goes up.”

Around 54,000 U.S. troops are estimated to have been deployed in the Middle East in 2017, not including Afghanistan, according to the foreign affairs think tank Chatham House.

Donald Trump Iran US troops

Iranian demonstrators carry a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and an effigy of President Donald Trump during a rally in the capital Tehran, on May 10. STR/AFP/Getty Images

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