Saudi Arabia has approved hosting U.S. forces in the country to boost regional security and stability, the state news agency announced today.
The U.S. Defense Department confirmed the move in a statement, saying it would deploy troops and resources to Saudi Arabia to “provide an additional deterrent” in the face of “emergent, credible threats.”
The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf that have impacted global oil markets.
Earlier today, Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but denied Washington’s assertion that the U.S. Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby earlier this week.
The decision on hosting U.S. forces aims “to increase joint cooperation in defence of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace” SPA said, quoting a Ministry of Defense official, without giving further details.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deployment would include about 500 U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a boost in the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East that the Pentagon announced last month.
In June, the Pentagon said it would deploy 1,000 troops to the Middle East but did not say where they were going.
Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened last year when President Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.
Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work, long seen by the West as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, in return for lifting sanctions.
But sanctions have since been reimposed, badly hurting Iran’s economy.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have denounced the four-year conflict in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has killed hundreds of civilians in errant airstrikes, many with American-made munitions.
Thousands of people have died in the fighting, and more than a million have been displaced.
Saudi Arabia’s hand in the killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has also been a sticking point.
But last month, during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the president shrugged off his death, calling the Middle East a “vicious, hostile place.”
Trump’s companies have done millions of dollars worth of business there.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner also has a massive amount of business dealings in Saudi Arabia.
Trump registered eight companies during his presidential campaign that were tied to hotel interests in that country.
The companies were registered under names such as THC Jeddah Hotel and DT Jeddah Technical Services, according to financial disclosure filings.
During a rally in 2015, the day Trump created four of those companies, he said he gets along well with Saudi Arabia.
“They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
After his election, Trump said on Fox News he “would want to protect Saudi Arabia.”