Washington: The US has announced plans to send military forces to Saudi Arabia in the wake of attacks against the country’s oil infrastructure. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper told reporters the deployment would be “defensive in nature”. Total troop numbers have not yet been decided, the BBC reported on Saturday. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks against two oil facilities last week. But the US and Saudi Arabia have both blamed Iran itself.
Earlier on Friday however, US President Trump announced “highest level” sanctions against Iran while signalling he wanted to avoid military conflict. “I think the strong person approach, and the thing that does show strength, would be showing a little bit of restraint,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. The fresh sanctions will focus on Iran’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, Trump said. Esper made the announcement alongside the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford Jr on Friday.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requested assistance, Mark Esper said. The forces will focus on boosting air and missile defences, and the US will “accelerate the delivery of military equipment” to both nations. Gen Dunford called the deployment “moderate” and said it would not number in the thousands. He gave no further details about the type of forces to be sent. According to a leading US media outlet, when reporters asked Esper if military strikes on Iran were still being considered, the defence secretary responded: “That’s not where we are right now.” (IANS)