Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a military plan at a meeting of top national security officials last week that would send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran escalates tensions, according to a New York Times report.
The Times said the plan, which does not call for a land invasion of Iran, was ordered by national security adviser John Bolton.
Citing administration officials, the Times said the plan was ordered to prepare in the event that Iran attacks American forces or accelerates the development of nuclear weapons.
The meeting occurred just days after the Trump administration cited “specific and credible” intelligence last week that suggested Iranian forces and proxies were targeting US forces in Syria, Iraq and at sea, according to the report.
Trump denied the report on Tuesday, dismissing it as “fake news.”
“Now would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that,” he told reporters at the White House. “Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that, and if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
The meeting reportedly included Bolton, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
The Times said the number of the troops discussed “has shocked some who have been briefed on them” and noted that the figure is close to the number of US troops that invaded Iraq in 2003.
A number of senior administration officials told the Times that even in its early stages, the plan shows “how dangerous the threat from Iran has become,” while other officials “who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.”