The Trump administration is increasing US military build-up in the Middle East as tensions with Iran continue to escalate with the alleged downing of an Iranian drone in the Straits of Hormuz. According to Defence Department officials roughly 500 American troops are being deployed to Saudi Arabia, one of its key allies in the confrontation with Tehran.
The troops are expected to go to the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The unnamed officials cited in CNN, who first reported the story, said that "a small number of troops and support personnel are already on site with initial preparations being made for a Patriot missile defense battery as well as runway and airfield improvements."
Satellite Imagery captured in late June and early July appear to show preparations being made to the site ahead of the deployment of US troops. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-proliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who has studied the new images told CNN: "A small encampment and construction equipment appeared at the end of a runway by June 27, suggesting that improvements are already underway. The encampment to the east of the runway is typical of Air Force engineering squadrons deployed overseas."
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The deployment of an additional 500 troops follows two months of steady US military build-up in the region following a series of attacks on oil tankers and pipelines in the Gulf two months ago. The incident, which the US said was carried out by Iran, deepened tensions that began following Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran and the re-imposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
In May approval was given for sending a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East. Plans were also put in place to deploy thousands of troops.