Plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter threats from Iran were unveiled at what appears to have been an exceptionally leaky meeting of national security aides last week, reports the New York Times, which cites more than half a dozen sources. The sources say Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented updated military plans that had been ordered by a group of administration hardliners led by national security adviser John Bolton. The 120,000 figure was the upper limit in a range of options in case Iran attacks US forces or steps up its nuclear plans, none of which included an actual invasion of Iran, the sources say.
Insiders say White House aides are divided over how to respond to intelligence reports that Iran's proxy forces may be preparing to attack US forces in the region. The Times notes that it's unclear whether the options were presented to President Trump, nor whether he would be willing to deploy such a large number of troops to the Middle East. Trump said Monday that Iran could face a "bad problem" after reports that oil tankers were sabotaged in the Persian Gulf, USA Today reports. "They're not going to be happy," he said. When asked what he meant by a "bad problem," Trump replied: "You can figure it out yourself." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has discussed tensions with Iran with several European and Middle Eastern leaders over the last week and will meet Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday, the Guardian reports. (Last month, Trump labeled Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.)