"Trump raises the stakes": why the Pentagon is transferring additional military contingent to the Middle East
Washington will transfer an additional military contingent to the Middle East, as well as speed up the process of delivering military equipment to the region. This was stated by the head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper. As explained in the department, we are talking about a limited group of troops that will deal with issues of strengthening the air defense of the Gulf states. Experts consider this decision of the White House an attempt to consolidate the US position in the Middle East. At the same time, some analysts regard the contingent buildup as a “symbolic gesture”, the purpose of which is to demonstrate to the Allies their readiness to defend their interests after the failure of the American air defense system deployed in the region.
US President Donald Trump approved the transfer of additional military contingent to the Middle East. Pentagon chief Mark Esper told reporters about this, explaining that this step is a reaction to Iran’s aggressive actions against Saudi Arabia (Washington accuses Tehran of precisely what was behind the drone attack on oil refineries, Iran denies this).
“The President approved the deployment of US forces, whose activities will be defensive and mainly focused on air defense and missile defense,” said Esper, adding that Riyadh had previously requested such support.
The head of the Pentagon also noted that the American side will not only transfer additional forces to the region, but will also try to speed up the process of delivering military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in order to "expand their self-defense capabilities."
“The president made clear that the United States is not seeking conflict with Iran. Moreover, if necessary, we have many other military options at the ready, ”added Esper.
- Fighters of the IRGC
- © Hamed Malekpour / Tasnim News Agency
In turn, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, said during a briefing that the number of additional troops would be limited and "would not be measured in thousands." He added that a decision on which particular formations and weapon systems will be sent to the region has not yet been made. However, in the coming days it is planned to meet with officials of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to discuss the number and composition of the forces and means that these states need to expand their self-defense capabilities. Specific proposals will be presented early next week, the general added.
It is worth noting that information about a possible buildup of American forces in Saudi Arabia began to circulate in the media before the official announcement. On the eve of this, citing unnamed sources in the Pentagon, the newspaper The Wall Street Journal reported.
According to the publication, we can talk not only about the appearance of an additional contingent in the region, but also about the supply of additional air defense systems, as well as a squadron of fighter jets to protect the interests of Saudi Arabia.
Recall that on the night of September 14, the oil enterprises of the Saudi state-owned company Saudi Aramco were subjected to a massive attack by drones and, presumably, cruise missiles. This led to the shutdown of several factories and a drop in oil production in the kingdom - it was halved by 5.7 million barrels per day.
Analyzing the consequences of the attack, experts drew attention to the fact that the American Patriot air defense systems deployed in Saudi Arabia could not intercept the missiles and drones, which dealt a serious blow to the energy infrastructure of the kingdom.
“What surprises me is where did the American missile defense system go? This situation is causing serious damage to the reputation of the United States and its defensive armaments, ”said Favaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, quotes Bloomberg.
- Burning Oil Plant in Saudi Arabia
The White House even had to make excuses for the failure of the American air defense system: State Department head Mike Pompeo said that the US side is trying to "use the infrastructure and resources in such a way that such attacks are less successful."
Responsibility for the attack on Saudi enterprises has been claimed by the Hussite Yemeni rebels, who have been waging war on the coalition led by Riyadh since 2014.
In 2017, the Saudi authorities said that the military of the kingdom allegedly managed to intercept a ballistic missile launched by the Hussites at Riyadh airport. However, soon the newspaper The New York Times published an expert report, from which it followed that the interception failed.
At the same time, the Hussites previously managed to strike at the territory of the kingdom. So, in the spring of 2019, Yemeni rebels reported a successful attack on Najran airport with the help of drones.
It should be noted that in recent years, drones have been actively used not only by Hussites - armed groups operating in the SAR regularly try to attack the Russian Khmeimim airbase with the help of drones. However, they still have not succeeded in causing serious damage - the Russian air defense deployed in this area regularly shoot down UAVs.
Riyadh has been and remains one of Washington’s key allies in the Middle East for many years. Saudi Arabia was one of the bridgeheads of the American army during the Iraq campaign: from the territory of the kingdom, the Pentagon carried out reconnaissance and combat flights to Iraq. After the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein, US authorities announced the withdrawal of servicemen from Saudi Arabia, in which only American military instructors remained.
Recently, however, the White House has increasingly turned to the idea of building up the military contingent in the Middle East. The reason for this was the accusations made by Washington and its regional allies against Tehran. In particular, it is alleged that it was Iran that was behind the attacks on fuel tankers in the Persian Gulf, and also shot down an American drone outside its airspace (Mark Esper repeated these allegations during the last briefing). Tehran from the very beginning rejected these attacks, but the American leadership continues to insist on the veracity of its version.
- Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, 2017
- © Jonathan Ernst
In May 2019, the American media disseminated information that the Pentagon was preparing to send a military group of up to 120 thousand troops to the Middle East to counter Tehran. The reports noted that this plan was allegedly developed and presented to the authorities by Patrick Shanahan, who then headed the US military. However, the White House was quick to refute this information, although real steps to increase the American presence in the region continued.
So, at the end of May, Donald Trump announced an additional transfer of about 1,500 troops to the Middle East to “protect against the Iranian threat,” and in June the Pentagon head announced that another 1,000 troops were sent to the region.
At the same time, in July, the press service of the US Department of Defense announced that the department was preparing to send a new batch of military and resources to Saudi Arabia.
According to experts, this country is of interest to the United States, not least as an importer of American weapons. Riyadh spends about 10% of GDP on defense, and a significant proportion of defense contracts are concluded with American companies. It should be noted that the cooperation of American corporations and authorities with Riyadh causes discontent in the United States: in the summer, the lower house of Congress even adopted a resolution prohibiting the continuation of arms supplies to the kingdom. We are talking about colossal volumes of defense orders, since in 2017, Donald Trump was able to agree with the leadership of Saudi Arabia on the sale of weapons for a total amount of $ 110 billion.
However, Riyadh is also considering alternative arms import channels. So, two years ago it became known about the negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Russia regarding the supply of S-400 air defense systems. Amid a major failure of American air defense systems that failed to protect oil facilities from attack, this dialogue may well intensify, analysts say. The desire to preserve defense contracts with Riyadh partly explains the speed with which the White House agreed to an additional transfer of forces to the kingdom, experts say.
“The United States is doing everything possible to capitalize on the security of other countries, this is Trump’s obvious course, which previously directly stated that it intends to receive payment from partners for defense support. The US president is constantly raising rates in this game, ”said orientalist and political analyst Karine Gevorgyan in a RT commentary.
However, according to the professor of Moscow State University, an expert on the Middle East, Alexander Vavilov, the desire to maintain contracts for the supply of weapons is far from the only Washington motive.
“It is beneficial for the United States to escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf, this will ensure Washington maintains its presence and influence in the region. It is for this reason that the White House is focusing its attention on the anti-Iranian campaign, ”the source said.
In general, the White House’s decision on additional military deployment in Saudi Arabia and the UAE was a continuation of the chain of rather chaotic steps taken by Washington in the Middle East, Vavilov said.
- US Army soldiers in Iraq during the Iraq campaign
- © US Army / Sgt. Jon soles / handout
“Now the United States is returning to the region, but with such a tiny contingent that they are ready to allocate for these purposes, the Americans will still not be able to seriously affect the balance of power. Therefore, these are only symbolic gestures to demonstrate readiness to defend Saudi Arabia after the American Patriot air defense systems failed to repel the attack of ten drones, ”the expert emphasized.
A similar point of view is shared by Karine Gevorgyan, according to whom the American administration decided to increase the number of troops in Saudi Arabia and the UAE so as not to lose face.
“Those accusations made against Iran suggest the start of hostilities, but the United States does not want to fight. Therefore, in response to its own accusations, Washington sends forces to Saudi Arabia to strengthen the kingdom’s air defense, ”Gevorgyan summed up.