U.S. To Send Air Defense Systems To Saudi Arabia
By RFE/RL September 26, 2019
The United States says it will deploy a battery of Patriot missiles, four Sentinel radar systems, and about 200 support personnel to Saudi Arabia in the wake of a recent attack on the kingdom's oil facilities that Washington has blamed on Iran.
"This deployment will augment the kingdom's air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said on September 26.
The U.S. military said it was also putting additional capabilities on "prepare to deploy orders," meaning they could be mobilized more quickly if needed.
These include two additional Patriot missile batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since the United States last year withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Tensions have escalated further over a number of incidents in the Persian Gulf, including a missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia that was claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Shi'ite Huthi rebels.
However, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Western European countries have blamed Iran, which denies any involvement.
The air strikes damaged the world's biggest petroleum-processing facility and knocked out more than 5 percent of global oil supply.
The Saudi defenses are currently focused on southern Saudi Arabia to protect the country from attacks by the Huthis.
The planned U.S. deployment is aimed at providing better surveillance across the north of the kingdom, according to AP.
"These steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East," Hoffman said. "Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia's defense."
Speaking to reporters in New York on September 26, a day after addressing the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that those counties accusing Tehran of being behind the attack on Saudi Arabia should "provide the needed proof."
"If you do have any evidence or documentation please do make them available to me," Rohani said, adding that the United States, France, Britain, and Germany "should stop" supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni-ruled monarchy is leading a military coalition that has been battling the Huthi rebels since 2015.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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