Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated in recent weeks as the United States tightened sanctions with what it said was the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 transports cargo from the fast combat support ship USNS Arctic to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a replenishment-at-sea in the Arabian Sea in a photo released on May 19, 2019 by the US Navy. (AP)

US President Donald Trump said on Friday he will send about 1,500 American troops to the Middle East, mostly as a protective measure, amid heightened tensions with Iran.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.

"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens," he said.

TRT World's Lionel Donovan reports.

The forces would help strengthen US defences in the region, two sources told Reuters earlier on condition of anonymity. They said the forces included engineers.

The US military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.

Rhetoric between Tehran and Washington has escalated in recent weeks as the United States tightened sanctions with what it said was the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump warned on Monday that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked US interests in the Middle East.

Arms to Saudi and UAE

Meanwhile, President Trump's administration has notified Congress it will bypass a required review to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, citing a threat from Iran, a senator said on Friday.

"With this move, the president is destroying the productive and decades-long working relationship on arms sales between the Congress and the executive branch," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who had blocked sales due to concerns the weapons would lead to civilian deaths in Yemen, said in a statement.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies