Trump denies planning to send 120,000 troops to counter Iran

The USS Abraham Lincoln in the waters of Western Pacific Ocean in 2004. The ship is now heading to the Middle East

Also Tuesday, drone attacks by Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen shut down one of Saudi Arabia's main oil pipelines, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions after the mysterious sabotage of the tankers.

He said the drones had targeted petroleum pumping stations supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea. In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, he called the pipeline attack "cowardly", saying that recent acts of sabotage against the kingdom's vital installations were targeting not only Saudi Arabia, but also the safety of the world's energy supply and global economy.

US and allied intelligence assessments indicate Iran was also behind sabotaging two Saudi oil tankers on Monday. Some reports have said the move of military assets were in response to credible intelligence that the Iranians were planning some sort of attack on US military assets.

Hook made the remarks after The New York Times newspaper reported that the White House is reviewing military plans that could see the deployment of up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack us forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. Iran is its third largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. and meets about 10% of its total needs. "Since ending the awful Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict".

Over the weekend, four commercial ships anchored near the United Arab Emirates were damaged in what US military investigators believe may have been attacks carried out by Iran or its proxies, The Associated Press reported.

When previous year, Trump pulled out of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the rest of signatories in the pact- UK, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran- had criticised the USA and vowed to remain a part of the deal.

The Houthis have been selected by Iran as a good place to test out the drone capabilities against a Western-backed army like the Saudis who use US and other Western equipment. Brent was trading at $71.37 a barrel by 1715 GMT, up 1.62%.

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A U.S. official familiar with American intelligence said Iran was a prime suspect in the sabotage although Washington had no conclusive proof.

It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilising proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack American force. So the question comes, how is Iran going to push back?

The reports come as the USA warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as the United States is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter what it called "threats from Tehran".

"If, and it's an "IF", there really has been a deliberate attempt to damage these oil tankers, then it's possibly a warning from Iran about the consequences of anybody taking military action against Iranian targets anywhere in the region", said Middle East analyst Neil Patrick.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman called the incidents on Sunday to ships near the coast of Fujairah "worrisome and dreadful", and asked for an investigation into the matter.

The heavy-handedness of Saudi Arabia's operations in Yemen has indeed wrought worldwide condemnation.

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