to send 1,000 extra troops to the Middle East amid increased tensions with Iran and released new photos purporting to show that members of Tehran's">

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Iran tension: US sends more troops, releases new tanker attack images

18 Jun 2019 euronews

The United States is to send 1,000 extra troops to the Middle East amid increased tensions with Iran and released new photos purporting to show that members of Tehran's Revolutionary Guard were responsible for attacks on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Monday that the increased forces were in response to a request from U.S. Central Command for defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats in the Middle East.

"The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region," Shanahan said. "The U.S. does not seek conflict with Iran."

Earlier, the Pentagon released images, many taken from a U.S. Navy helicopter, showing what it said were Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

Other photos show a large hole on the side of the Courageous, above the water line, that officials say appears to have been caused by another similar mine.

The release of the photos came as the U.S. works to convince members of Congress and allies that the accusations against Tehran are true.

Iran has denied involvement in the tanker attacks and has accused America of promoting an "Iranophobic" campaign. Tehran, however, has repeatedly threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world's oil flows.

Some European allies have called for a careful investigation of responsibility, worried that the U.S. is escalating tensions with a country President Donald Trump has long called a top enemy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he made a number of calls Sunday and Monday to international leaders, trying to convince them that keeping the Strait of Hormuz safe and open is a problem they all must deal with.

Relations between the U.S. and Iran have deteriorated in recent months, as the Trump administration restored crippling sanctions and designated the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.

That increased pressure preceded a string of attacks that the U.S. has blamed on Iran. In late May, four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were attacked with what appeared to be mines, and there was a rocket attack in Baghdad. Last week, similar attacks were launched against the Courageous and the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. military has also accused Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops of trying but failing to shoot down a U.S. drone to disrupt surveillance of the tankers during the attacks.

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