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Increased US military activity in the Gulf is aimed at Iran's "very negative" behaviour, the Bush administration said today. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, told reporters that the decision to deploy a Patriot missile battalion and a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf in conjunction with a "surge" of troops in Iraq was designed to show Iran that the US was not "overcommitted" in Iraq.
Speaking in Brussels after meeting Nato officials, Mr Gates said: "We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future."
Such remarks, following the prospect of "hot pursuit" raids into Iran as raised by George Bush in his televised address last week, have fuelled speculation that the US is softening up the American public for possible action against Tehran.