Are We Going To War With Iran? An Explainer

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Today, the White House notified Congress that they’ll be sending at least 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in order to address rising tensions with Iran. President Donald Trump said that the troops would have a “mostly protective” role, according to the Associated Press.

AP obtained a copy of the order, which states the troops will be deployed in the coming weeks, and “their primary responsibilities and activities [will be] defensive in nature.”

Though relations between the U.S. and Iran have been degrading since Trump took office in 2017, the move has many concerned that this is just the first step to starting a full-blown war with the Middle Eastern country. So what’s going on, exactly? Are we going to war with Iran? We break it down.

What happened today? Why?

In early May, the Pentagon told the White House that Iran “had given a green light to its proxies in the region to go after U.S. targets.” (For context: Iran is well-known for training and using a “network of armed militias” who aren’t officially tied to the country in order to carry out military attacks and other strategic missions.)

With that information, the White House threatened Iran with more sanctions and partially evacuated American diplomats in the region, and the Pentagon asked for more support in the Middle East to counter Iran’s reported aggression.

Fast forward to today: Trump has given the green light to deploy more troops and weapons to the tune of “approximately” 1,500 troops. This is far fewer than the 10,000 troops the Pentagon initially asked for, according to the AP.

According to CNN, “The new deployment includes Patriot missile batteries, reconnaissance aircraft and accompanying necessary forces to provide further deterrence against what the Pentagon believes is a rising Iranian threat against US troops in the region.”

What does this have to do with our previous relationship with Iran?

The U.S. has a long and complicated history with Iran dating back roughly seventy years, largely dominated by the American attempt to control access to oil reserves and nuclear weapon proliferation in the Middle East — chiefly by relying on economic sanctions that would choke countries that didn’t play ball.