Amid proposals for U.S. military responses to Iran over allegations that it is behind the recent attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, President Donald Trump is considering stationing more troops in countries throughout the region.
Trump has been asked to consider deploying more troops throughout the Middle East, and an administration source suggested those troops may number in the “hundreds” and would be placed alongside some 70,000 troops currently in place in the region, Fox News reported Thursday.
Gen. Kenneth Mackenzie, who heads the U.S. Central Command, has proposed stationing more air defense measures throughout the region, such as Patriot missile batteries. The move could potentially deter future aerial attacks, like the drone and missile-based attacks alleged to have been used against Saudi oil sites last week.
Though Trump has not yet approved that specific option, he has apparently weighed it alongside other proposals, such as stationing more fifth-generation fighter jets in the region, and conducting military airstrikes against Iran.
Any U.S. actions would likely be considered by U.S. officials as a retaliatory strike against Iran, which they have blamed for the attack that crippled Saudi oil production and took roughly five percent of the world supply off the market.
In contrast, Iran would likely consider U.S. responses unprovoked as it has publicly denied any involvement in the attacks and have deferred blame to the Yemen-based Houthi rebels.
Iran has already announced its intentions to retaliate against any U.S. actions.
Trump has previously signaled support for joint retaliatory strikes against Iran, though he has said he would defer to Saudi intelligence assessments of the attack.
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
On Thursday, U.S. military officials appeared to reiterate that move to investigate the source of the attack.
“We’re being deliberative about this, and we’ll wait until the final assessment is completed with the Saudis, and they’ve made their declaration,” Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman told Fox News reporters.
Air Force Col. Patrick S. Ryder, a spokesman for the Joint Staff, said current assessments indicate the attack was likely more sophisticated than the Houthi rebels are likely capable of performing.
“Regardless of whether this was a proxy or direct attack [by Iran], this has been a dramatic escalation of what we have seen in the past,” Ryder said. “This was a number of airborne projectiles. It was very sophisticated and coordinated.”