WASHINGTON: The United States is sending nearly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division as a precaution amid rising threats to American forces in the region, US officials said on Friday.
Iran promised vengeance after a US air strike in Baghdad on Friday killed Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander and the architect of its growing influence in the Middle East.
The overnight attack, authorized by President Donald Trump, was a dramatic escalation in a “shadow war” in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the troops would be joining the roughly 750 forces that were sent to Kuwait earlier this week.
President Donald Trump said on Friday he ordered the killing of Qassem Soleimani to stop a war, not start one, saying the Iranian military commander was planning imminent attacks on Americans.
"Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him," Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
"We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war," Trump said, adding that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran.
Earlier, a senior US official on Iran said that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on US facilities and workers in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and other countries.
Brian Hook, the US Special representative for Iran, told Al Arabiya TV that the attack was going to kill hundreds of Americans.
US officials told Reuters earlier this week that thousands of additional troops could be sent to the region and had been told to prepare to deploy.
Since May, the United States has already dispatched about 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East.