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Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East

President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? 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 BlackburnHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-Tenn.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyNYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force chief: Attacks are 'not new' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan 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: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision MORE spoke to Senate Armed Services Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeInhofe tells EPA nominee he'll talk to her 'daddy' if she does not 'behave' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate nixes Trump rule limiting methane regulation | Senate confirms EPA chief: Biden's climate goals are 'an opportunity to lead' | Fine-particle pollution disproportionately hurts people of color: research EPA chief: Biden's climate goals are 'an opportunity to lead' 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.