Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration is considering sending about 14,000 American troops to the Middle East, a move that would double the number of U.S. forces stationed in the region. However, the government has dismissed the reports and clarified that they have no such plans as of now.
Troops in Iran?
“This reporting by the @WSJ is wrong. The U.S. is not sending 14,000 troops to the Middle East to confront Iran,” Alyssa Farah, the press secretary for the U.S. Department of Defense, said in a tweet. Earlier, the Pentagon had stated that they were concerned about the threat originating from Iran since they had tracked several short-range missiles fired into Iraq where U.S. troops are located.
In the past few months, the region has been troubled by a series of attacks on shipping vessels and oil installations in Saudi Arabia that were blamed on Iran. The U.S. has strengthened its military presence in the region to prevent tensions from escalating. Meanwhile, the Iranian side has been defiant about not accepting America’s denuclearization demand.
Iraq, which is one of the strongholds of fundamental Islamist forces, is strongly influenced by Iran. Hardline groups in the country like the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are basically paramilitary forces made up largely of Shiites. Many military experts believe that the increasing aggression of Iran will eventually lead to a conflict with the U.S. and result in horrific consequences. And America is apparently losing patience due to the rising attacks on its bases.
“We’re used to harassing fire… But the pace of [that] was [previously] pretty episodic … [Now] the level of complexity is increasing, the volume of rockets being shot in a single volley is increasing and is very concerning to us… There is a point at which their actions change things on the ground and make it more likely that some other actions, some other choices made — by somebody, whether it’s them or us — will escalate unintentionally,” a senior U.S. official said to Reuters.
Hitting the Iranian economy
After Iran rejected America’s nuclear deal demand in 2018, the Trump administration placed a series of economic sanctions on the country to force it to change its stance. The sanctions have had the intended effect and Iran is undergoing severe economic hardships that have triggered massive citizen protests against the Islamic government.
“The reinstatement of U.S. sanctions in 2018… caused foreign investment to dry up and hit oil exports. The sanctions bar U.S. companies from trading with Iran, but also with foreign firms or countries that are dealing with Iran… In May 2019, Mr. Trump ended exemptions from U.S. secondary sanctions — such as exclusion from U.S. markets — for major importers of Iranian oil and tightened restrictions on the Iranian banking sector,” according to the BBC.
U.S. measures brought down Iran’s GDP by 4.8 percent in 2018. This year, the GDP is expected to lower by an additional 9.5 percent according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund. And for 2020, the organization has predicted zero growth. The unemployment rate of Iran has risen from 14.5 percent in 2018 to 16.8 percent in 2019, which has also been one of the main reasons behind the country’s anti-government protests.