As tensions with Iran mount, reports say U.S. readying 500 troops to deploy to Saudi Arabia
The U.S. is poised to send hundreds of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, according to new media reports.
CNN reports two U.S. defense officials said 500 troops will deploy to Prince Sultan Air Base, which the U.S. has eyed as a spot for increased presence because intelligence indicates the desert region would be difficult for Iranian missiles to strike.
The new troops would be in addition to a small number of troops and support personnel already in Saudi Arabia readying a Patriot missile defense battery and a runway.
The deployment is part of the Pentagon’s plan to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East due to escalating tensions with Iran. The proposal was unveiled on June 17, but it was unclear exactly where the troops would be sent.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at the time. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.”
Congress has yet to receive formal notification of the troop movement, but were unofficially tipped off that the deployment would happen, according to CNN.
Although the Trump administration has sought to cozy up to Saudi Arabia, the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia has been strained since the death of Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 as well as concerns about the ongoing Saudi-led fight in Yemen against Iran-supported Houthi rebels that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.
The Pentagon and U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Military Times.
Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich said no official announcement has been issued and that the military “continually works to manage our force posture in the region,” according to the New York Times, who also reported the plans after CNN.
The U.S. has already boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf in recent months. For example, the Trump administration sent the USS Abraham Lincoln, B-52 bombers, and a Patriot antimissile battery to the region in May.
Tensions have worsened since then, especially after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20. In response, the Trump administration was prepared to launch a military strike, but President Donald Trump said he backed off the plan after he learned the number of estimated casualties.