The United States has authorized the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia among high tensions in the Gulf. According to Al Jazeera, the Pentagon has stated that the move would provide an additional deterrent in the face of emergent, credible threats in the region. The decision was prompted by increased tension between the United States and Iran. A U.S. official explained that the deployment would include “about 500 military personnel and is part of a boost in the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East that the Pentagon announced last month.”
According to Al Jazeera, Patrick Shanahan, U.S. Secretary of Defense, said he had authorized the deployment of 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes and a possible threat from Iran. This decision was in response to Iran-led attacks on four tankers on May 12th. According to Al Jazeera, the U.S. planned to send “900 more forces – including engineers and a fighter aircraft squadron – to the middle east to bolster U.S. defense, as well as extend the deployment of some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.”
According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia’s defense ministry confirmed that they would host the additional U.S. military forces “to boost regional security and stability”. A ministry spokesman was quoted saying, “Based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and their desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability … King Salman gave his approval to host American forces.” According to the BBC, a statement from U.S. Central Command said, “This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats.”
While the plan to send more troops originated last month due to perceived tension between the United States and Iran. The final authorization took place after news of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps capturing British oil tankers. According to Al Jazeera, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said: “its forces captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws.”
U.S.-Iran relations have been worsening since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Nuclear Deal signed with Iran in 2015. According to Al Jazeera, in addition to withdrawing from the Nuclear Deal, Trump also “re-imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic”. Since then tensions have been on the rise between the U.S. and Iran.
According to Al Jazeera, last month, “Iran downed a US surveillance drone that it said had violated Iranian airspace.” However, the U.S. claims that there was no violation, as “the drone had been over international waters”. In addition, Trump also claimed that a U.S. Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it threatened the vessel, a claim Iran promptly denied.” Evidently, there appears to be perceived tension on both ends.
While tension has increased between the United States and Iran, sending more troops to Saudi Arabia would not benefit the current situation. It may only increase tension further and create greater instability and insecurity in the region. After Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran, it has sent the message that the U.S. does not stand with Iran, which in part has only led to this increase in tension. Thus, sending more troops to Saudi Arabia would further confirm that the U.S. is against Iran and create more regional instability. If the purpose of sending more troops is truly to serve as “an additional deterrent in the face of emergent, credible threats in the region” then there must be an alternative strategy. Increasing U.S. military forces would be counterproductive as it would increase perceived threat in the region and create a more hostile environment for all parties involved.
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