Washington, Sep 27 (IANS) The US has decided to deploy 200 troops and missile defence equipment in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the September 14 drone attacks on a major oil field and a petroleum processing facility in the Kingdom, Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman has announced.
“In light of recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, and at their invitation, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced today (Thursday) that the US would deploy one Patriot Battery, four Sentinel RADARs and approximately 200 support personnel,” a Department of Defence statement quoted Hoffman as saying on Thursday.
“This deployment will augment the Kingdom’s air and missile defence of critical military and civilian infrastructure.”
Hoffman added in the statement that Secretary Esper has also approved “putting additional forces on Prepare To Deploy Orders (PTDO)”, but ” no decision has been made to deploy these additional forces”.
Hoffman added that the US’ move was “a demonstration of our (America) commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East”.
Thursday’s announcement comes after President Donald Trump on September 21 approved sending more US forces to the Gulf which are “defensive in nature” and will be “primarily focused on air and missile defence”.
The September 14 attacks were carried out by 10 unmanned aircraft. It hit the Hijra Khurais – one of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields, producing about 1.5 million barrels a day – and Abqaiq, the world’s biggest crude stabilization facility, which processes seven million barrels of Saudi oil a day, or about 8 per cent of the world’s total output.
The attack disrupted about half of the Kingdom’s oil capacity, or 5 per cent of the daily global oil supply. The oil field and the processing facility belonged to the state energy company Aramco, which is the world’s largest oil producer.
The Yemeni Houthi rebels said they had carried out the attacks. But both the US and Saudi Arabia said Iran was behind them.
Tehran has strongly denied their claim.
The US has kept piling up pressure on Iran through its “maximum pressure campaign”.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump announced a presidential proclamation barring senior Iranian government officials and their family members from entering the US.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out negotiations with the US unless the latter lifted sanctions on his country first, further dampening the hope of a meeting between him and Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.