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US troops in Saudi Arabia facing Iran’s ‘real regional conflict’

Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia (U.S. Air Force/WikiCommons)

US officers deployed at a base in Saudi Arabia have spoken about the new threat posed from Iran to the Kingdom and the region as a whole.

About 2,500 troops are now based at the Prince Sultan Air Base after the US decided to return a large military presence to the Kingdom last summer after almost 17 years.

The base, south east of Riyadh, stations F-15 fighter jets that fly missions against Daesh over Iraq and Syria and Patriot missile batteries, to help defend from Tehran’s attacks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We face a thinking enemy that is playing a real regional conflict for keeps, and they’re very good,” Gen. John Walker, the commander of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing at the base, said of Iran.

A series of attacks in the region last year have been blamed on Iran, including simultaneous missile and drone strikes on two major Saudi oil installations in September.

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US defense officials say they have shored up air defenses since the attack that temporarily halted 5 percent of global oil supplies, the Journal reported.

“Regardless of how inexpensive the drone may be, the impact of the damage the drone may cause outweighs what we would consider to be cost- or not-cost-effective in terms of the Patriot missile system,” Lt. Col. Tom Noble, who commands an air-defense battalion at the base said.

Facilities at the base continue to develop with a new road servicing the US area. Tents are being replaced with trailers and a security barrier around the perimeter of the base has also been built, the report said.

More than half a million American troops were sent to Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The US withdrew most of its forces from the Kingdom following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited American troops at the base after talks with King Salman.

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© 2020 the Arab News