US to deploy 200 personnel, missile system to Saudi Arabia

US to deploy 200 personnel, missile system to Saudi Arabia

The Pentagon announced Thursday that the U.S. will deploy 200 personnel as well as missile defense and radar equipment to Saudi Arabia in response to the attacks earlier this month on its oil facilities, which the Trump administration has blamed on Iran.

The Defense Department will send one Patriot missile system battery, which holds the missiles and launcher, and four Sentinel radars meant to detect any incoming attack, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement on Thursday. Some 140 of the deployed personnel will be tasked with operating and maintaining the Patriot battery, with the other 60 working on the radar systems.

"This deployment will augment the kingdom's air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure,” Hoffman said, adding that the deployment adds to “an already significant presence of U.S. forces in the region.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' MORE has also approved the possible deployment of additional troops, as well as two more Patriot batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, though no decision has been made to deploy the additional forces, Hoffman said.

Esper last week announced that “all indications are that Iran was responsible for the attack” on the two Saudi oil refineries, which were hit by drones and cruise missiles on Sept. 14, disrupting about 5 percent of the world’s supply of oil.

The Trump administration quickly blamed Iran for the attacks, though Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have taken responsibility and Tehran has denied involvement.

Saudi Arabia as well as its neighbor the United Arab Emirates have since requested international support to deter further attacks, which the administration approved.

Esper said at the time that the U.S. troop deployment will be defensive, primarily focused on air and missile defense, and is meant to “send a clear message that the United States supports our partners in the region.”

The Defense Department has approximately 70,000 personnel scattered around region, including naval deployments.

The Pentagon is also looking to other countries “to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia's defense," Hoffman said. 

No other nations have yet committed to sending support to the kingdom, though on Monday U.S. allies Britain, Germany and France joined in blaming Iran, saying there is “no other plausible explanation.”

Esper said last week that after a detailed investigation by Saudi Arabia, the United States and other international investigative teams, “it is clear” that weapons used in the attack “were Iranian produced and were not launched from Yemen as was initially claimed."

The administration also last week imposed new sanctions on Iran’s central bank in response to the bombings.