Additional troops and missile defense equipment will be deployed to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the wake of the recent attacks on the biggest Saudi oilfield, the Pentagon announced on Friday.
Despite the move, President Donald Trump has decided to hold off an immediate military strike on Iran, which the U.S. has blamed for the strike that resulted in a major disruption in global crude oil distribution.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Friday that this is the first step aimed at strengthening security, stressing that other moves were still on the table. More details about the deployment would be released in the coming days, added General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He noted that it would certainly not include thousands of U.S. troops, which was later confirmed by other officials as well, who said that this number would likely be in the hundreds. They added that the defensive equipment would most likely include Patriot missile batteries and possibly enhanced radars, AP reports.
President Trump had made similar comments earlier in the day when he said that he sought to avoid a military conflict with Iran as it showed “far more strength” than going to war. Instead, he slapped the nation’s central bank with new sanctions.
“I think the strong person’s approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Much easier to do it the other way, and Iran knows that if they misbehave, they are on borrowed time.”
Dunford further said that the additional troops and equipment would strengthen the Saudi kingdom’s chances of defending itself from possible future airstrikes.
“No single system is going to be able to defend against a threat like that,” he said, “but a layered system of defensive capabilities would mitigate the risk of swarms of drones or other attacks that may come from Iran.”
Although this is the second time the President has opted out of attacking Iran, he stressed Friday that he has “plenty of time” to strike, suggesting that a military strike was not off the table.
The U.S. has no hard evidence that Iran is behind the attacks, but the Pentagon is conducting an assessment to determine if the strikes came from Tehran.