The United States announced the deployment of additional American military forces to Saudi Arabia on Friday to bolster the kingdom’s defenses after the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.
The large deployment includes fighter squadrons, an air expeditionary wing and air defense personnel, the Pentagon said. Together with the 200 forces to Saudi Arabia announced last month, the deployment totaled about 3,000 troops, it said. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters the deployments were designed to deter Iran.
“We thought it was important to continue to deploy forces to deter and defend and to send the message to the Iranians: Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests, American forces, or we will respond,” Esper told reporters during a press briefing.
U.S.-Iran tensions have risen to new highs since May 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran that put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions. Since May, the US has increased the number of its forces by about 14,000 in the Central Command area covering the Middle East, the defense department said.
In September, the US announced deployment of 200 troops as well as Patriot missiles to the kingdom in the wake of the attacks on Saudi oil installations blamed on Iran. Friday’s announcement came after the owner of an Iranian oil tanker said suspected missile strikes hit the vessel off the Saudi west coast port of Jeddah, raising fresh concerns about Middle East oil supply.
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