President Trump on Friday approved the deployment of U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to the Middle East in response to an attack on Saudi oil facilities that the Trump administration has blamed on Iran.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the announcement at the Pentagon, saying “The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense.”
“We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves,” he added.
Esper said “all indications are that Iran was responsible for the attack” on the two Saudi oil refineries, which were reportedly hit by drones and cruise missiles last weekend.
He said the deployment to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates is meant to “send a clear message that the United States supports our partners in the region … ensure the free flow of resources necessary to support the global economy” and to “demonstrate commitment to upholding the international rules based order that we have long called on Iran to obey.”
Esper added that while the president has made clear that the United States does not seek conflict with Iran, “we have many other military options available should they be necessary.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said he will talk with leaders from U.S. Central Command and Saudi partners over the weekend to “work the details of the deployment.”
“We’ll be able to share that with you next week. We haven’t decided on specific units,” he said.
Asked why he believes the deployment will be enough to deter Iran from further attacks, Esper said that “given the state of play now … we think for now that would be sufficient.”
“But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be additional deployments as needed based on the changing situation,” he added.