As tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia escalates, Washington plans to remove four Patriot missile batteries and dozens of troops stationed in the kingdom. This could leave Saudi Arabia vulnerable to Iranian attacks, claims an expert talking to the EurAsian Times.
The military equipment was transferred to Saudi Arabia after an attack on oil facilities paralysed the Kingdom’s production. Riyadh and Washington have consistently accused Iran of the attacks, a claim Tehran vehemently denies.
Both the US and Saudi have also accused Tehran of having any hand unclaimed attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf that transpired over several months before the September attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities.
In addition to removing the Patriot systems and troops, the US has already moved two fighter jet squadrons and is contemplating scaling down its naval presence in the Persian Gulf, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Patriot defence system removal is presently underway, and is based on the understanding among “some officials” that Iran “no longer poses an urgent threat to American strategic interests,” it said.
The officials also that Washington believe the assets should be redeployed to face other provocations, including China’s growing role in Asia, while others believe that the withdrawal could encourage Tehran in the region, especially as the US maintains its policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
“The underlying pressure on Iran and the propensity to act out militarily as their only outlet of trying to relieve that pressure still exists with the maximum pressure campaign,” one official told the WSJ. “As long as the maximum pressure campaign continues, there’s a feeling that we need a strong deterrent to prevent Iran from acting out in the region.”
When Saudi Arabia ramped up oil production and slashed prices this year, Republicans accused the kingdom of exacerbating instability in the oil market, which was already suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The volatility and price crash in oil hurt U.S. shale producers, leading to layoffs in the industry, particularly in Republican-run states.
Some Republican senators warned in late March that if Saudi Arabia did not change course, it risked losing American defense support and facing a range of potential “levers of statecraft” such as tariffs and other trade restrictions, investigations and sanctions.