The U.S. military is sending 200 troops to Saudi Arabia “at their invitation,” after an air-raid strike on the kingdom’s oil fields, Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman announced Thursday.
“This deployment will augment the kingdom’s air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure. This deployment augments an already significant presence of U.S. forces in the region,” Hoffman said in the announcement.
“It is important to note these steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East. This follows the Secretary and Chairman’s extensive outreach to partners in the region, and around the globe,” he added.
“Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defense.”
On Saturday, Sept. 14, a coordinated strike using cruise missiles and drones occurred on key Saudi Arabian facilities destroyed half of the country’s oil capacity, which is more than 5 million barrels a day.
Saudi and U.S. investigators have determined that that attack came from an Iranian base “with very high probability,” CNN reported.
A group of Houthi rebels in Yemen, which is south of Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the attack, despite Saudi Arabia’s claim that the attack came from the north, where Iran and Iraq are located.
“This attack did not originate from Yemen,” a Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki said on Sept. 18, according to NPR, “despite Iran’s best efforts to appear so.”
“Secondly, the attack was launched from the north,” Malki added, “and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”
President Donald Trump previously authorized a “moderate” bolstering of U.S. forces in the region on Sept. 20, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
“To prevent a further escalation, Saudi Arabia requested international support to help protect the kingdom’s critical infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has also requested assistance,” Esper said of that increase in U.S. presence in the kingdom.
Vice President Mike Pence said the United States was “locked and loaded” and “ready to defend our interests and allies in the region.”
“Make no mistake about it,” he added.
Trump echoed Pence’s stance.
“I don’t want war with anybody but we’re prepared,” Trump said.
Oil prices surged after the attack, CNN reported. U.S. oil futures jumped 14.7 percent to $62.90 a barrel, the biggest spike since January 2009. Futures of Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped 14.6 percent to $69.02 a barrel.
Saudi Aramco oil facilities, which are owned by the Saudi Arabian state, were badly damaged in the strikes. Restoring oil production to pre-level attacks is reportedly going to take weeks.
“This is a big deal,” Tom Kloza said the chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors the price of oil across the United States. “It is the biggest shock to the oil markets since [Hurricane] Katrina. And like Katrina it will likely haunt us for months, at least weeks.”