US-Iran ESCALATION: Colossal B-52 bombers leave Qatar to 'send message' to Iran - Video

The enormous aircraft were filmed taking-off from a US base in Qatar - an effort that the White House claims is to deter an Iranian “attack on US interests”. Precise details of the mission were not publicised, but the Pentagon said its purpose was to “defend American forces and interests in the region.” US National Security Advisor John Bolton said the buildup was meant to send a “clear and unmistakable message” to the Islamic Republic and ward off a threat.

The top US defence official has presented an updated military plan to President Donald Trump's administration that envisions sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Citing unnamed administration officials, the Times said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan at a meeting of Trump's top security aides on Thursday.

But President Trump has dismissed the story as “fake”, telling reporters at the White House: "I think it's fake news, OK?

“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.”

Tensions between Iran and the United States have intensified since Mr Trump pulled out of a 2015 international deal to curb Iran's nuclear activities and imposed increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.

President Trump wants to force Tehran to agree to a broader arms control accord and has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what US officials have said are threats to US

Iran has said the US is engaging in "psychological warfare," called the US military presence "a target" rather than a threat and said it will not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Neither the United States nor Iran want war and Iraq is in contact with both, Iraq's state news agency INA quoted Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi as saying on Tuesday.

The conflict between Washington and Tehran – Baghdad's main allies who are themselves, enemies – is a "complex file" that Iraq is working hard to find solutions for, Abdul Mahdi said.

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