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all eyes on iran
May 19, 2019

Iran and the United States have both fervently expressed that they do not seek war with one another, despite heightened tensions. Now, Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally and rival of Iran, has proclaimed a similar aversion to warfare with Iran. But, as was the case with Iran and the U.S., the kingdom left open the possibility for conflict should they have no other choice.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday said Saudi Arabia does not want or seek war with Iran, but if Iran strikes first, "the kingdom will respond with all force and determination" to defend itself. Riyadh has accused Tehran of ordering drone strikes on two Saudi Arabian oil pumping stations last Tuesday, though Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility and Iran has denied involvement.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly recently discussed strengthening security and stability in the Gulf region with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he also called for a meeting later in May with other Gulf State leaders to discuss implications of Iran's possible proxy attacks. "The ball is in their court," Jubeir said, referring to Iran. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

May 13, 2019

During a meeting of President Trump's top national security aides last week, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan shared a revised military plan that includes sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces or speeds up its work on nuclear weapons, administration officials told The New York Times on Monday.

National Security Adviser John Bolton, an Iran hawk, ordered the updated plan for the meeting, which took place after the administration claimed Iran was organizing proxy groups to attack American forces in Syria and Iraq. It is unclear whether Trump, who has said he wants to remove troops from Afghanistan and Syria, has been briefed on the matter, or if he would agree to send so many troops to the Middle East.

Officials told the Times there is a divide in Trump's team when it comes to the Iran plan: Some believe it is proof Iran is a major threat to the U.S., while others say this is just a way to scare Iran out of trying anything. The plan does not call for a land invasion of Iran, the Times reports, as many more troops would be needed for such a mission. Catherine Garcia

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