In a press conference Friday evening, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford announced the US would be sending “hundreds” of US troops, as well as additional air defense capabilities, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The president has approved the deployment of US forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. He noted that the US doesn’t seek war with Iran, but “has other options” as well. He said that a “layered defense” could better protect the kingdom in the event of being “swarmed” by drones or missiles, but noted that no system can prevent all such attacks.
The move comes in response to findings by US and Saudi intelligence that last weekend’s attack on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province did not come from Yemen, as that country’s Houthi movement claimed, but was launched from Iran. Tehran has sternly rejected the accusations, and on Thursday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN that an attack on Iran would mean “all-out war.”
Dunford said that decisions on specifics will be made over the weekend, with details announced next week, but noted it would be a “moderate deployment” that would not include thousands of troops.
The news comes amid reports that Houthis would end their attacks on Saudi Arabia with the expectation that they reciprocate.