onald Trump has ordered another 1,500 US troops to the Middle East and overruled Congressional objections to sell £6.3 billion in weapons to America’s Arab allies amid ongoing tensions with Iran.
Mr Trump approved plans to send more fighter jets and missile defence batteries to the Persian Gulf in what the Pentagon called a “defensive” deployment intended to protect US troops in the region from Iran.
The US also publicly accused Iran of carrying out a sabotage attack against oil tankers off the coast of the UAE, and said it had evidence Iran planned to load cruise missiles onto small ships and use Shia militias to attack American forces in Iraq.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said the new US deployment “threatens international peace”.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump used emergency powers to sweep aside objections in Congress and push through £6.3 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan.
Both Democrats and Republicans had been holding up the arms sales because of concerns over the vast civilian death toll caused by Saudi and UAE airstrikes in Yemen as well as the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said the threat from Iran justified the use of emergency powers and sidelining Congress.
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
The move was condemned by Democrats and criticised by some Republicans in Congress.
“This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress,” said Chris Murphy, a Democrat senator.
Michael McCaul, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, said the White House’s decision was “unfortunate”.
In an apparent effort to assuage Congressional frustration, Mr Pompeo said the use of emergency powers was “a one-time event”.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been publicly heightened for three weeks after the White House announced it had evidence of Iranian plots in the Middle East and was sending more forces.
Since then, the US has been deploying increasing numbers of troops, aircraft and warships to the region. Both the White House and Iran have said they are not seeking a war but Britain and other states have warned of the dangers of miscalculation and unintended conflict.
The additional 1,500 US troops announced on Friday was on the low end of a set of military options that could have seen 10,000 American soldiers deployed.
While announcing the new deployment, the US for the first time publicly accused Iran of being behind a sabotage attack which damaged four oil ships off the Emirati port of Fujairah.
“Recent actions by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to include attacks against foreign tankers in Fujairah and the attempted covert deployment of modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles, are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region,” said Vice Admiral Mike Gilday.
Brigadier General Hassan Seifi, a senior Iranian commander, said he believed that “rational Americans and their experienced commanders will not let their radical elements lead them into” a war.
Another Iranian official said that Iran was capable of sinking US warships with missiles or unspecified “secret weapons”.
Source: The Telegraph