U.S. deploys air defense systems, troops to Saudi Arabia | TribLIVE.com

U.S. deploys air defense systems, troops to Saudi Arabia

Associated Press
President Trump steps off Air Force One after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is sending one Patriot missile battery and four ground-based radar systems to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said Thursday, in what officials describe as the first steps to help the kingdom protect itself against Iranian attacks.

Two more Patriot batteries and a THAAD missile defense system will be prepared to go later if needed, and the deployment will involve about 200 troops.

Military commanders and defense leaders have been working since last week to iron out what military aid to send to the region in response to what U.S. officials say was a brazen and unprecedented cruise missile and drone attack by Iran on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.

President Trump during a White House meeting last Friday put off, at least for now, any immediate military strike on Iran, but approved a broader effort to beef up security in Saudi Arabia and the region. He told reporters that showing restraint “shows far more strength” than launching retaliatory strikes now.

The four Sentinel radar systems and the Patriot battery are designed to provide better surveillance coverage across northern Saudi Arabia. The bulk of the kingdom’s Patriot batteries and other defenses are focused on the south to protect the country from attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis launch almost daily attacks into Saudi Arabia and at times into the UAE.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last week that additional security measures will be the first step, but he did not rule out additional moves down the road. Officials have said they are talking with allies in an effort to get more nations to contribute to security in the region.

“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 defense,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the goal is to defend Saudi Arabia against unconventional aerial attacks using a “layered system of defensive capabilities” that would mitigate the risk of swarms of drones or other attacks by Iran.

The U.S. has so far not provided any hard evidence that Tehran was responsible for the attacks, but officials insist they have no doubt the cruise missiles and drones were launched from inside Iran.

Iran has denied involvement and warned the U.S. that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.

A military forensic team has been pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.