Sending thousands more troops to Middle East amid Iran threat would be offensive and defensive: Gen. Jack Keane

Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane says sending thousands of troops to the Middle East amid tensions with Iran would be both offensive and defensive in nature, with the Trump administration seeking to force Iran to the negotiating table.

Keane, a Fox News senior strategic analyst, said Thursday on “America’s Newsroom” that the “initial build-up of our forces” in the region, including a carrier strike group, Patriot missiles, additional forces and bombers, was all about deterrence.

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“Making certain that the Iranians really get the message that based on intelligence we thought they were going to have an unprovoked attack on our forces” Keane said.

But the potential plan to send between 5,000 and 10,000 more American troops to the region to beef up the existing forces is now all “about a response if [the Iranians] do” attack the U.S.

“I think what we're probably looking at is increased offensive missile capability to be able to conduct cruise missiles from submarines and surface ships and also likely some additional missile defense capability to protect our facilities,” Keane said.

“I think what we're probably looking at is increased offensive missile capability to be able to conduct cruise missiles from submarines and surface ships and also likely some additional missile defense capability to protect our facilities.”

— Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane

The Pentagon will present plans to the White House, which may also include Patriot missile batteries and naval ships, according to U.S. officials. No decision has been made, and it was not clear if the White House would give its blessing.

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Tensions between Washington and Tehran came to a head after President Trump ordered warships and bombers to the Middle East earlier this month to counter unspecified threats to U.S. interests. In addition, all non-essential U.S. staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Iraq were ordered to leave following a surprise visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The general went on to state that the possible extra forces would be both an offensive and defensive move against the Iranian threat.

“It's largely defensive in the sense that we want to protect our facilities and that's what the return of the forces is about,” he said, adding that “it’s also offensive because if they do conduct an unprovoked attack, we'll have to respond to that and that is what this capability is really all about.”

“It's largely defensive in the sense that we want to protect our facilities and that's what the return of the forces is about. But it’s also offensive because if they do conduct an unprovoked attack we'll have to respond to that and that is what this capability is really all about.”

— Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane

Yet the ultimate goal, Keane says, is about forcing Iran to restart the negotiations and find a “political solution," pointing to the Trump administration’s pressure on the regime that made a significant impact on the country’s economy.

“The economy is in the tank. Inflation up 37 percent, the economy contracted 6 percent. This is notable. Power shortages, routinely, food shortages. Civil unrest growing in the country,” Keane said.

“However, all of those pressures we put on the Iranians, their behavior in terms of what they're doing in Lebanon, Syria, encroaching on Israel, Yemen as well, that has not changed yet.”

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He added: “But they certainly feel the pressure. Remember where we're going with this. We're going to a political solution is what this administration is trying to achieve. Get Iran back to the negotiating table and work out a better deal.”

Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.