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Trump denies report that U.S. may deploy 120,000 troops to counter Iran

President Trump denied a report from the New York Times that his top national security aides discussed a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in case of a fallout with Iran, adding that if they were planning to, "we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that."

"I think it's fake news, okay? Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. 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 backdrop: The plan was reportedly drawn up by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and presented during a meeting about the Trump administration's broader Iran policy, attended — among others — by national security adviser John Bolton, CIA director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

  • It's unclear if President Trump was briefed on the details of the plan, which did not call for a land invasion of Iran, but requested a similar number of troops involved the U.S.' 2003 invasion of Iraq, per the Times.

The big picture: Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been warning of an unspecified "escalating threat" from Iran in recent weeks, after receiving intelligence from Israel about a possible Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the region. Trump told reporters Monday that he’d been “hearing little stories about Iran,” adding: “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly.”

Go deeper: Pentagon presented plan to deploy 120,000 troops in case of Iran escalation