US authorizes deployment of 3,000 additional troops in Saudi Arabia

This new troop deployment comes amid growing tensions in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are facing each other.

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US General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. greets Saudi soldiers last July in the center of the country. MAKE NURELDINE / AFP

The United States is strengthening its military presence in a rising Gulf region. On Friday, October 11, US Defense Minister Mark Esper authorized the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops and military equipment in Saudi Arabia.

By the end of September, the United States had already announced that it would send 200 troops into the kingdom, the first such deployment since the withdrawal of US troops in 2003. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, known as "MBS," was informed on Friday morning of additional deployment, which aims to "Ensure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia", according to the Pentagon.

This new deployment, at Washington's major ally in the region, includes an air squadron, two combat squadrons, two Patriot missile batteries and a Thaad missile defense system. According to the statement, the United States has increased by 14,000 the number of soldiers present in the Middle East.

A tense context in the Gulf

The announcement comes hours after an Iranian tanker was hit Friday by two alleged missile strikes in the Red Sea, a hundred kilometers from a Saudi port.

The incident is the latest in a long series in the region, including attacks in Saudi Arabia, seizures of oil tankers in the Gulf and the destruction of an American drone by Tehran. In September, Ryad, Washington, then London, Berlin and Paris accused Tehran of being responsible for air strikes against two strategic oil sites in the Saudi kingdom.

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Since US President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 a unilateral withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and reinstated economic and financial sanctions against Tehran, a veritable standoff between on the one hand, Iran and, on the other, Saudi Arabia and its American ally.

The tightening of sanctions in May 2019 by Washington, with the removal of the oil-purchase exemptions enjoyed by Iran's top eight customers, including China, Japan and India, saw a attacks on oil interests in this strategic region.


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