(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday dismissed a New York Times report that the administration is reviewing a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked U.S. forces as “fake news.”
But even as the president sought to brush off the report, he added that he would “send a hell of lot more” troops if he did have to respond to a military attack from Iran.
“I think it’s fake news, okay?” Trump said when questioned by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega about the reported plan Tuesday. “Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that.”
He continued: “Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that. I think, where – was that story in the New York Times? — well, The New York Times is fake news.”
The New York Times reported Monday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a plan to the president’s top national security aides last week that would include sending up to 120,000 U.S. troops to the region should Iran attack U.S. forces or speed up work on nuclear weapons.
Prior to the president’s remarks Tuesday, the White House had declined to comment.
On a trip to Russia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment on the report during a news conference in Sochi with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but did say, “we do not seek war with Iran.”
Lavrov said Pompeo has told him the report was a “rumor” and that we hope to find a political solution.”
The report comes at a time of heightened tension in the region and a day after Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers came under attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia called the attack an act of sabotage.
Pompeo said said he had no information currently on who was responsible for the damage to the ships in the United Arab Emirates. He said that the U.S. was working “diligently” to establish that. Other U.S. officials have suggested initial assessments indicate that Iran or its proxies played a hand in the attacks.
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