Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE on Thursday left the door open to the U.S. sending more troops to the Middle East to confront what Pentagon officials have described as a growing threat from Iran.

While hosting a White House luncheon with all of the permanent representatives to the U.N. Security Council, Trump was asked if more troops would be sent to the Middle East following reports that the administration was considering sending an additional 14,000.

“There might be a threat and if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we’ll be announcing whatever we may be doing — may or may not be doing,” Trump replied.

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Earlier on Thursday, a top Pentagon official said that the Trump administration could deploy more U.S. troops to the region to counter Tehran.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood called a Wall Street Journal report that the administration was mulling another 14,000 troops “erroneous.”

But when pressed by Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senator: 2020 candidates must recuse themselves from impeachment trial Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones GOP senators introduce resolution to change rules, dismiss impeachment without articles MORE (R-Tenn.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyBiden calls for revoking key online legal protection House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (R-Mo.) on whether a deployment is under consideration, Rood said that “we are evaluating the threat situation and the secretary if he chooses to can make decisions to deploy additional forces based on what he’s observing there.”

“Based on what we’re seeing and our concerns about the threat picture, it is possible that we would need to adjust our force posture," said Rood, the Pentagon’s No. 3 official. "And I think that would be a be prudent step depending on what we observe because our objective is to deter Iranian aggression, and deterrence is not static. It’s a very dynamic activity.”

Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement later on Thursday that the Defense Department is “constantly evaluating the threat situation around the world and considering our options. We adjust our force posture and troop levels based on adversary action and the dynamic security situation.”

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She added that Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Overnight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon MORE spoke to Senate Armed Services Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Senators see off-ramp from Iran tensions after Trump remarks MORE (R-Okla.) on Thursday morning “and reaffirmed that we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East at this time.”

Sending that many additional troops would double the number of U.S. forces sent to the region since May in the face of what officials have described as heightening threats from Iran, including the downing of a U.S. drone in June.

Rood told reporters on Wednesday that there were indications that Iran may soon attack U.S. forces or interests in the Middle East.

“We do remain concerned about potential Iranian aggression,” Rood said.

“We also continue to see indications ... potential Iranian aggression could occur.”

The United States has also blamed Iran for attacks over the summer on oil tankers in the Gulf, as well as an attack on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Iran has denied they were involved.