THE US is sending thousands more troops to protect Saudi Arabia against the threat of Iran after last month’s attack on major oil plants.
Donald Trump approved the deployment of 3,000 extra troops in response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, which the US blamed on Iran.
Fighter jets and air defence personnel form part of the deployment, the Pentagon said.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper says the move was in response to "threats in the region", amid efforts to protect the kingdom from "Iranian aggression".
"Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorised within the last month," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
It comes a month after a swarm of drones attacked the world’s biggest oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia, knocking global supplies.
Some 18 drones and seven cruise missiles bombarded the fuel facilities in an assault described as a “Pearl Harbour-type" attack on September 14.
Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels originally claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the Saudi-led war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of people.
US officials say they have damning evidence which exposes Iran as the culprit rather than technologically backward rebels in Yemen.
Military sources believe Iran may have launched drones and cruise missiles from Ahvaz Air Base.
Saudi officials have said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's "fingerprints" were all over the oil plant blitz after satellite images showed his henchmen preparing the launch site.
Tensions between the US and Iran have risen to new highs since May 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 nuke deal with Tehran.
The deal put limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions.
As Trump used sanctions to put increasing pressure on the Iranian economy, there have been a series of attacks that Washington and close allies have blamed on Iran.
In a bid to better shield Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said it was sending two additional Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters the deployments were designed to deter Iran.
"We thought it was important to continue to deploy forces to deter and defend and to send the message to the Iranians: Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests, American forces, or we will respond," Esper told reporters during a press briefing.
Trump said the US would not bear the expense of the deployment.
'NO COST' TO USA
"Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything were doing," he told reporters.
Some of Trump's Republican allies have called for retaliatory strikes, which the president has so far declined to carry out.
It was unclear whether some of the newly announced troops might replace other American forces expected to depart the region in the coming weeks or months.
The Pentagon has yet to announce, for example, whether it will replace the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group when it eventually wraps up its deployment to the Middle East.
Esper declined to say whether the carrier, which itself includes thousands of troops and massive firepower, would be replaced.
The deployment is part of a series of what the United States has described as defensive moves following the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities last month.
The attack rattled global energy markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia's air defences.
Iran has responded to previous U.S. troop deployments this year with apprehension.
It denies responsibility for the attack on Saudi Arabia as well as attacks on oil tankers earlier this year.
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