Friday, 27 September 2019 06:08

US Sending Troops, Weaponry to Saudis to Boost Kingdom's Air Defenses

PENTAGON - The Pentagon is sending a Patriot missile battery, four radar systems and about 200 troops to Saudi Arabia to boost the kingdom's air defenses against further attacks.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the deployment "will augment the kingdom's air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure."

Two more Patriot batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also preparing to deploy there to defend against missiles, if needed, Hoffman added.

The movement is the first step in responding to what officials call an Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier this month. One U.S. official told VOA the attack originated in "southwest Iran" and that the U.S. has more proof "than just debris" to back up this claim, although no evidence has been released by the U.S. to date.

Tehran has denied responsibility for the attack.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, first announced Trump's decision to send forces and equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Friday night at the Pentagon.

The Patriot battery and radar systems are designed to provide increased surveillance across Saudi Arabia's north. The country has largely focused its defenses to the south in order to protect the country from attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that the presence of foreign forces in the Persian Gulf area would create "insecurity in the region."

Esper said Friday that U.S. forces and equipment heading to the region would be "defensive in nature" and were being sent in response to requests from Saudi and UAE officials to improve their air and missile defenses.

(VOA)

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