January 3, 2020 / 6:45 PM / in 2 months

U.S. defence secretary cancels vacation amid Iran crisis

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks about airstrikes by the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 29, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has cancelled plans to take personal leave later in January amid rising tension with Iran, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.

The disclosure about Esper’s personal travel plans follows the overnight U.S. air strike against Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the second most powerful figure in Iran.

The strike marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the two countries, which could have broad implications for the Middle East. It was followed with a Pentagon decision to send thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Chris Reese

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