U.S. 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.The forces would help strengthen U.S. defenses in the region, two sources told Reuters earlier on condition of anonymity. They said the forces included engineers.The U.S. 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 U.S. interests in the Middle East.