MIDDLE EAST

US to deploy 200 troops, Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia

The Pentagon said Thursday it will send one Patriot missile battery and four radar systems to Saudi Arabia, in what officials have said are the first steps to help the kingdom protect itself against Iranian attacks.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Thursday that Washington will deploy 200 troops to Saudi Arabia because of attacks on oil facilities.

"In light of recent attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and at their invitation, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper announced today that the U.S. would deploy the following equipment to the kingdom: One Patriot Battery, Four Sentinel RADARs, Approximately 200 support personnel," agency spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

The decision came a week after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he is "confident" the U.S. will raise the matter during UN General Assembly meetings in New York this week.

The U.S. is increasingly pointing the finger at Iran for the attacks on Aramco oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia that upended the Kingdom's oil output. Those attacks have been claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels supported by Tehran.

Iran has denied having any hand in the attacks, however, as regional tensions soars amid speculation of reprisals from the U.S. and its allies.

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

Underlining that Esper also approved putting additional forces on Prepare To Deploy, he said no decision has yet been made to deploy additional forces, including two Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), while troops will maintain "a heightened state of readiness."

"It is important to note these steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East," Hoffman said. "Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia's defense."

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