The deployment of hundreds of US troops to Saudi Arabia as part of a build-up to counter Iran in the region amid soaring tensions and a dangerously ratcheting “tanker war” has begun, TheWall Street Journal reported Friday night.
The Pentagon first revealed on Wednesday that 500 of the 1000 total troops announced by the White House last month to bolster US presence in the Middle East would be heading to the Prince Sultan Air Base, situated in the desert east of Riyadh.
Crucially, Prince Sultan Air Base has been closed to American troops since the rapid fall of Baghdad and overthrow of Saddam at the start of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
The WSJ report confirms the new deployment is en route within 24 hours after Iran’s elite IRGC seized two British tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. One tanker has already released, but the other – British-flagged Stena Impero and its crew – is still being detained.
According to the report:
The military already has begun to deploy more than 500 U.S. service members to Prince Sultan Air Base, about 150 kilometers southwest of Riyadh, officials said. Saudi officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. Officials from U.S. Central Command, which overseas the Middle East, declined to comment.
It’s the latest sign that the Trump Administration is continuing its military buildup in the region, which has so far included fighter jets, B-52 bombers, an aircraft carrier strike force, Navy destroyers and – of course – more troops.
Citing two senior defense officials, CNN had previously reported that a small number of troops were already in the area, and initial preparations were being made for a Patriot missile defense battery as well as improvements to a runway and airfield. US security assessments have determined that the area would be ideal for US troop deployment because it would be difficult for Iran to target with missiles.
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