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May 14, 2019, 12:58 p.m. EDT

Schumer: ‘Dangerous’ that Trump aides reportedly have drafted a plan to send 120,000 U.S. troops to Mideast

Trump says his team hasn’t made that plan but adds they’d ‘send a hell of a lot more troops than that’

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By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is ‘very concerned.’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is blasting President Trump’s administration following a report that top White House aides have a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran makes any aggressive move.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan to national-security officials last week, and it envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Mideast should Iran attack American forces or accelerate its work on nuclear weapons, a New York Times story indicated late Monday.

Schumer denounced the development as “completely baffling and incredibly alarming.” He also offered the following warning, as he spoke on the Senate floor:

‘It seems that hard liners in the administration are pushing the conversation in a very dangerous direction, and I’m very concerned.’

Sen. Chuck Schumer

When asked about the report on Tuesday, Trump told reporters it was “fake news” but also said he could send more than 120,000 troops.

“I think it’s fake news, OK?” the president said, according to an AP reporter’s tweet . “Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that, and if we did that we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

Opinion: U.S.-Iran war wouldn’t be a cakewalk — it would be hell

And see: What the expiration of waivers on Iran crude sanctions will mean for oil

Meanwhile, Schumer raised a number of questions about the reported plan.

“The administration just began a maximum-pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran to squeeze its economy. Doesn’t it make sense to see if your policy is working before preparing for potential troop deployments, particularly in such large numbers?” he asked.

The Democratic lawmaker from New York also said: “Six months ago, the president was trying to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East entirely against the advice of many in our defense and diplomatic communities. Now his national-security team is reviewing plans for war?”

Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -0.17% executive, has been acting defense secretary since January. The White House said last week that Trump intends to officially nominate him to head the Pentagon.

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Victor Reklaitis is MarketWatch's Money & Politics reporter and is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @VicRek.

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