U.S. to deploy military forces to Saudi Arabia, UAE after drone attacks on oil sites
"The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the troop deployment to Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is happening as Iran has engaged in a "significant escalation of violence" in the region.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file
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"The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense," U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said at a news conference Friday.
Answering reporters' questions about the deployment, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the troop deployment as "modest" and "not thousands."
Dunford said he planned to confer with U.S. Central Command and Saudi officials to work out details of the deployment, which he said would be announced next week.
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The defense secretary said the troop deployment to those nations is happening as Iran has engaged in a "significant escalation of violence" in the region.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that while Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the Saudi oil-site attack, the "fingerprints" of Tehran's ayatollah were evident in the drone strikes.
Esper on Friday took that line of thinking further, saying, "The weapons used in the Iranian attack were Iranian produced and were not launched from Yemen as was initially claimed."
However, he emphasized that Saudi Arabia is leading the investigation into the attack. "We will keep them in the lead with regard to the forensics, so we need to let that play out, let the evidence play out," Esper said.
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard responded Saturday, with its chief commander saying it is ready for combat and "any scenario."
Gen. Hossein Salami, at a ceremony displaying pieces of an American drone Iran shot down in June, said that his forces have carried out "war exercises and are ready for any scenario."
He added: "If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them."
The troop buildup in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates supplements sanctions against the Iranian banking system.