Written by Michael Crowley and Helene Cooper
President Donald Trump is sending a modest deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with air and missile defense equipment, in response to the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which the administration blames on Iran.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed the decision Friday evening, with Esper framing the action as “defensive in nature.” Dunford said that the precise number of US troops headed to the region has not been determined, but that it would be a “moderate deployment” in the hundreds, not thousands.
The announcement came as Trump is weighing whether to take direct military action against Iran in response to the attacks on Saudi Arabia, which rattled global energy markets and which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called “an act of war.”
At the White House on Friday, Trump said that he could order a retaliatory strike in an instant, but that his current restraint should be seen as a sign of toughness.
Although the administration is not ruling out military strikes, senior officials indicated that, for now, the president was content to remain within the parameters of defense, not offense. Pressed by reporters about whether the administration was still considering so-called kinetic action, or military strikes, Esper said, “That’s not where we are right now.”
Earlier Friday, Trump announced new sanctions against Iran, and the administration is said to be considering a range of other actions, including cyberattacks.