The US to Send Troops to Saudi Arabia
As tensions between Iran and the US heat up, even more, the Trump administration is preparing to send hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia.
Two US defense officials reported to CNN on Wednesday that 500 troops would be sent to Prince Sultan Air Base in the desert, east of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The US has long eyed the spot as an excellent place to build a base, as it would be difficult for Iranian missiles to strike based on intelligence information on the area.
These troops will be added to a small force that already occupies the base and has been readying it for a Patriot missile defense battery, as well as a runway. The officials report that the US hopes to supply the area with fifth-generation F-22 jets, stealth, and other fighters from the base.
According to images taken of the area by Planet Labs and Jeffery Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, support personnel and initial deployments have been at the site since at least mid-June.
Lewis said in an interview with CNN, “A small encampment and construction equipment appeared at the end of the runway by June 27, suggesting that improvements are already underway.” And he added, “The encampment to the east of the runway is typical of Air Force engineering squadrons deployed overseas.”
The forces are part of a plan proposed last month to send 1000 troops to the middle east as tensions escalate with Iran; however, it was unclear until now where those troops would be sent. At the time when the deployment was announced, former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.” He added, “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran.”
Since May, six oil tankers have been attacked and damaged in the Gulf of Oman. The White House and many of her allies believe Iran to be responsible. However, Tehran claims to be innocent.
Then in June, an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, near the Iranian coast, increasing tensions. President Trump retaliated by ordering a military airstrike but abruptly changed the plan after considering the cost of civilian lives.
Since then Iran has announced its deliberate violation of an international accord conceived in 2015 to restrict its nuclear program. According to the announcements, Iran has surpassed its limit on uranium enrichment, enabling it to produce a nuclear weapon.
A Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich says that “no official announcement” has been made on the troops’ deployment but that America “continually works to manage our force posture in the region.”
However, one official did say that Congress had been given an informal heads up and that an official announcement could be expected in the next week.
It is unsure how Congress will take this news, as they are currently not very fond of Saudi Arabia either. President Trump proposed to sell $8 billion worth of weapons and support to Saudi Arabia in May, and Congress blocked the sale believing that “now is not the time to be doing business as usual” with our Saudi allies.
This comes after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. It is believed that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had ordered the killing. In addition, Saudi Arabia is currently leading a fight against Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen that has caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, a million more to be displaced.
Therefore, Congress and many political experts are concerned that helping Saudi Arabia and giving her more fuel for war is not the best option at this point.
On Wednesday, Congress agreed to block the proposed arms deal to Saudi Arabia with 22 resolutions.
However, it has been mentioned by the White House that the measure is likely to be vetoed by the president. His administration says that he is determined to protect her ally, Saudi Arabia against Iran and the increasing threats of war.