June 17 (UPI) -- The Pentagon on Monday said it is sending 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, which U.S. officials blamed on Iran.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced the deployment after the Department of Defense released new images that officials said showed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships in Thursday's attack.
"In response to a request from the U.S. Central Command for additional forces and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats in the Middle East," he said.
Shanahan said the United States "does not seek conflict" with Iran and on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the country would take necessary measures short of war to ensure freedom of movement in the Strait of Hormuz.
"The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten the United States personnel and interests across the reason," Shanahan said.
The U.S. Navy responded to separate distress signals from the two tankers -- the Japanese-operated Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-flagged MT Altair. They were traveling nearly 10 nautical miles apart when they were attacked early Thursday morning.
Pompeo called the attack a "blatant assault" and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran.
Iran has denied involvement in the attack, calling U.S. accusations "worrying and alarming."