It was reported on Monday that the Trump administration has concocted a plan that involves sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter a potential Iranian attack on American forces. Whatever threat may exist is almost entirely of the president’s own design. Since Trump rebuffed allies, experts and his own administration in removing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal last year, tension between the two nations has escalated steadily. Both have seemed especially jittery in the past few months as the U.S. continues to ramp up sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.
But it seems like the threat of military aggression from Iran isn’t what the Trump administration wants people to believe. On Tuesday, a British military official told reporters at the Pentagon that there isn’t evidence Iran is any more of a threat that it has been in the past. “We are aware of their presence clearly and we monitor them along with a whole range of others because of the environment we are in,” said Major General Chris Ghika, adding that “there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”
According to the New York Times, these early machinations for conflict have largely been set in motion by National Security Adviser John Bolton, a war hawk who supported the invasion of Iraq and unsuccessfully pushed George W. Bush to take action against Iran. The plan to send 120,000 troops was reportedly his idea, as has been the idea that military action against Iran could soon be warranted. The Times notes that, according to intelligence and military officials in both the United States and Europe, “most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran but in Washington — where Bolton has prodded Trump into backing Iran into a corner.”
One American official said, according to the paper, that the intelligence supporting the idea that Iran is a threat is “small stuff,” and that Bolton wants to goad Iran into taking action against American forces, thus, in his mind, justifying a military response. Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told the Times the current tension with Iran is “a crisis that has entirely been manufactured by the Trump administration.”
Democratic politicians feel similarly. When asked by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes whether he trusts the administration to not manipulate intelligence reports, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said he doesn’t. “As a member of the Senate, I actually also have information about the things the U.S. is doing to provoke and poke Iran,” he said. “I think there is an effort underway by the U.S. to try to instigate Iran into doing something, and if they do something in response to U.S. provocation, the administration … will use that as their pretext for 125,000 troops, or as the president said today, more.”