US announces they are deploying more troops to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in response to the strikes on oil field
- Pentagon said on Friday it would increase troop deployments in Saudi Arabia
- New deployment is thought to number in the hundreds but specifics are few
- Follows the September 14 drone attack on Saudi oil processing facilities
- Yemen's Houthis claim responsibility but Washington blames Tehran
The U.S. is sending more American troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to protect oil infrastructure, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The Pentagon said the deployment would involve a moderate number of troops and would be primarily defensive in nature.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the new deployment is a first step, and would not rule out additional moves down the road. He said it's a response to requests from the Saudis and the UAE to help improve their air and missile defenses.
Other officials said the U.S. deployment would likely be in the hundreds and the defensive equipment heading to the Middle East would probably include Patriot missile batteries and possibly enhanced radars.
Picture taken 11 October 2005 shows two US seamen, part of the 30-strong US Navy detachment positioned atop the Khor Al-Amaya Oil Terminal. The US announced a new increase in troop deployments to the region on Friday amid tensions with Iran
Damage is seen on Friday to Aramco's oil processing facility after the recent Sept. 14 attack in Abqaiq, near Dammam in the Kingdom's Eastern Province
It follows the September 14 drone attack on the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Though Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, Saudi blamed Iran, which supports the Shiite Houthis against the Saudi-backed Sunni elements in Yemen's ongoing civil war.
Washington has also pointed the finger at Tehran, condemning an 'act of war' which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production and sent global oil prices soaring.
Iran has denied involvement and warned the U.S. that any attack will spark an 'all-out war' with immediate retaliation from Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday there was 'enormous consensus in the region' that Iran executed the attacks, despite its denials and the Yemeni rebels' claims.
The deployment announcement reflected President Donald Trump's comments earlier in the day when he told reporters that showing restraint 'shows far more strength' than launching military strikes and he wanted to avoid an all-out war with Iran.
Saudi engineers use cranes to remove the mangled wreckage of production machinery at the Khurais oilfield, one of two facilities hit by dramatic drone and missile strikes last Saturday
Instead, he laid out new sanctions on the Iranian central bank and said the easiest thing to do would be to launch military strikes.
'I think the strong person's approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,' Trump told reporters during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
'Much easier to do it the other way, and Iran knows that if they misbehave, they are on borrowed time.'
Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the extra equipment and troops would give the Saudis a better chance of defending against unconventional aerial attacks.
'No single system is going to be able to defend against a threat like that,' he said, 'but a layered system of defensive capabilities would mitigate the risk of swarms of drones or other attacks that may come from Iran.'
The U.S. has not provided any hard evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, while insisting the investigation continues, but Esper on Friday said the drones and cruise missiles used in the attack were produced by Iran.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (file photo) said the new deployment is a first step, and would not rule out additional moves down the road
'I think the strong person's approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,' Trump told reporters during a meeting with the Australian PM
'The attack on Sept. 14 against Saudi Arabian oil facilities represents a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression,' Esper said, adding that the U.S. has thus far shown 'great restraint.'
In deciding against an immediate U.S. strike, Trump for the second time in recent months pulled back from a major military action against Iran that many Pentagon and other advisers fear could trigger a new Middle East war.
In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians.
On Friday, he left the door open a bit for a later military response, saying people thought he'd attack Iran 'within two seconds,' but he has 'plenty of time.'
Trump spoke just before he gathered his national security team at the White House to consider a broad range of military, economic and diplomatic options in response to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities.
In a surprise move, the Houthi rebels announced late Friday 'the halt of all attacks against the territory of Saudi Arabia' as a peace initiative to end Yemen's devastating conflict. There was no immediate reaction from Saudi authorities.
In July, the Pentagon first announced that it was sending troops back to Saudi after years of withdrawal.
Prince Sultan Air Base at one time housed 60,000 U.S. troops, but has been empty since 2003
Those forces deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, 85 miles south of Riyadh, and included fighter jets, air defense missiles and more than 500 troops.
The base, which at one time housed more than 60,000 U.S. troops, was abandoned by Washington after the toppling of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The formerly massive U.S. military presence on the Arabian peninsula was one of the stated grievances of the masterminds of the September 11 terror attacks in 2001.
Prior to the July deployment, the U.S. military presence on the peninsula had dwindled to a mere handful of technical advisors, who were housed on Saudi military bases.
History of U.S. troop deployments to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the nexus of Sunni Muslim power in the Middle East, and is unofficially allied with Israel against their mutual rival, the Shiite Muslim powerhouse Iran.
Beginning during Operation Desert Shield in August 1990, while preparing for the Gulf War, the U.S. sent a large troop contingent to Saudi Arabia.
At one time, Prince Sultan Air Base housed as many as 60,000 U.S. troops, supported by an all-American array of creature comforts like fast-food restaurants and swimming pools.
Following the Gulf War, thousands of U.S. troops remained in Saudi Arabia, many of them supporting the enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq.
The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which is home to the holiest sites in Islam, provoked vicious objections from Sunni fundamentalists, and was the main stated motivation behind the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. troops remained in Saudi to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but following the end of major operations at the outset of the Iraq War the forces in Saudi were quickly withdrawn.
Since 2003, Prince Sultan Air Base has been abandoned, and the only U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia have been a handful of technical and training personnel housed on Saudi-owned bases.