Pentagon pulling Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia

The U.S. military is removing Patriot antimissile systems from Saudi Arabia as part of a shift of forces and equipment in the region following a buildup last year in response to Iranian threats, a U.S. official confirmed on Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Washington is moving four Patriot missile batteries from the region.

The U.S. official confirmed to The Hill that two Patriot systems will come from Saudi Arabia — along with the roughly 300 military personnel deployed to man them. The two systems had been sent to the country last year after a Sept. 14 strike on two Saudi oil facilities that Washington and Riyadh both blame on Tehran, which the nation denies.

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The official also confirmed that two additional Patriot systems will leave the region, as have two U.S. jet fighter squadrons.

They said the move happened as there is the feeling in Washington that threats from Iran are no longer immediate.

The long-strained relationship between the United States and Iran came to a head earlier this year when the Trump administration launched an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, sparking weeks of escalating tensions between the two countries.

The coronavirus pandemic ± which has hit Iran harder than most countries around the world — seemed to quell additional conflict until an incident last month when 11 Iranian ships repeatedly approached Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

With the redistribution, the U.S. military will now have two Patriots in Saudi Arabia as opposed to four.