US mulling 14,000 more troops for Middle East: Report

President Donald Trump could make a decision on the troop boost as early as this month.
President Donald Trump could make a decision on the troop boost as early as this month.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is weighing sending up to 14,000 more troops to the Middle East in the face of a perceived threat from Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday (Dec 4).

The mulled deployment would include "dozens" more ships and double the number of troops added to the US force in the region since the beginning of this year, the Journal said, citing unnamed US officials.

It said President Donald Trump could make a decision on the troop boost as early as this month.

A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the report to AFP.

The move would come after a series of attacks on shipping vessels and a drone and missile attack on Saudi oil installations in September blamed on Iran.

Washington has already ratcheted up its military presence in the Gulf and expanded economic sanctions on the country, elevating tensions across the region.

In mid-November the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln sailed through the Strait of Hormuz in a show of force aimed at reassuring allies worried about the Iran threat.

In October, Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced that two fighter squadrons and additional missile defence batteries were being sent to Saudi Arabia, for a total of about 3,000 new troops.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country was willing to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme if the United States first drops sanctions, which have hampered the country's economy and may have contributed to recent domestic turmoil sparked by fuel price hikes.

Speaking at a defence conference in Manama, Bahrain, on Nov 23, General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said the US does not have all the resources it needs to cover the Middle East region.

"There is a lot of water to cover. Simply put, we don't have sufficient resources to be where we want to be in the right numbers all the time," he told the annual Manama Dialogue on regional security.

But Gen McKenzie rebuffed criticism that Washington has been disengaging from the region.

"We have a carrier in the theatre, we've reinforced Saudi Arabia," he said.

"So I'm not sure I would agree with the narrative of abandonment or a narrative of walking away."

"Clearly the United States has different global priorities and this is probably not the highest global priority, but I think it remains a very important thing for the United States," he added.