The Pentagon announced that the United States would send a “moderate” number of troops to Saudi Arabia to bolster the Kingdom’s defenses. It also said that we would be expediting supplying both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with additional military equipment.
While no specific military equipment that would be sent to the Saudis and the UAE is mentioned by the Pentagon, Reuters reported earlier that the U.S. was “considering sending anti-missile batteries, drones and more fighter jets.” The number of troops would “not number thousands,” said the spokesman.
“In response to the kingdom’s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news briefing.
“We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves.”
The Pentagon’s late Friday announcement appeared to close the door to any imminent decision to wage retaliatory strikes against Iran following the attack, which rattled global markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia’s air defenses.
President Trump slapped some severe sanctions on the Iranian central bank, which will make it very hard for Iran to get a hold of dollars. It will probably have more effect on the government than a couple of military strikes anyway.
Trump told reporters at the White House that his restraint showed “strength”:
Trump said earlier on Friday that he believed his military restraint so far showed “strength,” as he instead imposed another round of economic sanctions on Tehran.
“Because the easiest thing I could do, ‘Okay, go ahead. Knock out 15 different major things in Iran.’ … But I’m not looking to do that if I can,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
But the deployment could further aggravate Iran, which has responded to previous U.S. troop deployments this year with apprehension. It denies responsibility for the attack on Saudi Arabia.
The evidence is overwhelming that Iran was behind the drone strikes.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have fingered southwest Iran as the staging ground for the attack, an assessment based at least in part on still-classified imagery showing Iran appearing to prepare an aerial strike.
They have dismissed Houthi claims that the attacks originated in Yemen.
One of the officials told Reuters the strike may have been authorized by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The soldiers are not there to fight. They are a deterrence to an Iranian attack. If Iran would be stupid enough to launch another strike at the Saudis or the UAE, or attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, their country would be a smoldering heap of rubble within 48 hours and they know it. The fiction that the Houthis could launch such a sophisticated — and provocative — attack won’t work this time either.
Trump is acting responsibly and intelligently. But will Iran mistake Trump’s forbearance as a sign of weakness? If they do, they will almost certainly regret it.