United States to send hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia amid regional tensions

Clay Curtis
July 20, 2019

Tensions continued to increase in the Persian Gulf as a US Navy amphibious ship shot down an Iranian drone, and as the US reportedly prepares to deploy hundreds of personnel to Saudi Arabia.

United States base near Riyadh to be expandedA recent article reports: "Up to 500 soldiers are to be sent to the Prince Sultan Airbase in the desert to the east of the capital Riyadh, two officials told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity".

The Trump administration has also faced backlash over its response to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in which high-ranking Saudi officials have been implicated.

Although no official announcement regarding the new troop deployment has been made, as well as no notification to the US Congress, an informal "heads up" was given, and an announcement is expected to take place next week, CNN reported, citing an official. The forces going to Saudi Arabia are said to be part of this deployment.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project, told CNN: "A small encampment appeared at the end of a Prince Sultan runway by June 27, suggesting that improvements are already underway".

He said Trump's weapon sales were necessary to reassure the U.S. allies in the Gulf faced with Iranian aggression.

Merkel criticises Trump's 'go back' comments on Democratic lawmakers
She was then seen shaking on June 27 when she attended an event with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. She made the remarks during a speech at the yearly German Federal Press Conference (BPK) in Berlin.

The Pentagon had announced plans in May to extend the deployment of some 600 troops from a Patriot missile battalion already deployed to the Middle East, and deploy an additional 900 servicemembers, including Patriot missile operators, to bolster security for USA troops already in the region. After 9/11 the U.S. made a point of removing troops from Saudi Arabia but now they are drifting back.

The US hopes to be able to fly stealth, fifth-generation F-22 jets and other fighters from the base, according to officials.

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally told lawmakers of the administration's plan to use a pre-existing rule that would allow it to expedite arms sales to allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration cited an emergency provision in the Arms Export Control Act and the looming conflict with Iran to justify its eight billion dollar sale of arms to the aforementioned nations without Congress's revision of the deal.

Lawmakers had been holding up the sales amid concerns about civilian casualties in the war and fury at Saudi Arabia over its killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey previous year. "These are countries that are already using American-made weapons in a campaign in Yemen that resulted in innocent civilians being targeted and killed", David Cicilline, a Rhode Island-based Democratic Congressman told Newsweek.

According to reports, soldiers could be deployed to Saudi Arabia as early as next week.

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