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US to deploy troops, weapons to Saudi Arabia 

September 27, 2019 at 1:42 pm

The US has announced that it will provide further military boost to Saudi Arabia following the attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities earlier this month. Roughly 200 troops, a surface-to-air missile system and extra radar equipment are part of the deployment that has been expected following the drone attack which the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as “an act of war”.

Last week General Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Mark Esper, defence secretary, expressed America’s intentions to deploy additional troops and equipment to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, which spends more on weapons than any other country as a percentage of its GDP, most of it from the US, is reported to have requested additional troops along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In a statement announcing the deployment yesterday Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said “it is important to note these steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East.” No details, however, were given as to whether the troops will be sent from the American bases in the Middle East or from the US. There are said to be 500 American troops already in Saudi Arabia as part of a 2,000-strong contingent sent following rising tensions following the attack on oil tankers and the downing of a US drone over the summer.

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In addition to the troops, weapons will also be set aside for fast deployment to the kingdom in case of emergency. Two Patriot surface-to-air missile systems and an anti-ballistic missile defence system are said to be on standby.

Hoffman hinted that more support was going to be made available from European countries. “Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defence,” said Hoffman. The UK is likely to be one of the states to provide assistance. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised the prospect of offering military assistance to Saudi Arabia after accusing Iran of carrying out the drone strike which took out half the kingdom’s export capacity.

The US already provides 88 per cent of all weaponry to the Saudis. By the end of 2018, Riyadh was responsible for 12 per cent of global arms purchases making it one of the largest importers of arms. Given that it already has a ballooning defence budget questions have been asked over Riyadh’s need for further military assistance from the US against what was in fact a low-level drone strike.

One commentator puzzled as to why the Saudis buy so many weapons has suggested that “buying the weapons, rather than deploying them, is the point” and that “these multimillion-dollar purchases maintain commercial relations with western allies from whom it imports arms, and who in return turn a blind eye to Saudi’s human rights abuses, assassinations and kidnappings, because there is too much money at stake”. It was claimed that this transactional relationship allows the Saudis “to buy friends and silence”.

READ: Trump says US ‘locked and loaded’ for potential response to Saudi oil attack