A week after the attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the region is far from relaxed. And the recent decision of the US should contribute little to a possible de-escalation: In the conflict with Iran, the US reinforce their troop presence in the Middle East.
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"The President has approved the use of US forces, which will be defensive in nature," said Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday night (local time) at the Pentagon. "Everything indicates Iran was responsible for the attack," Espers said about the two attacks on Saudi oil refineries last Saturday.
Investigations by American, Saudi and international experts had shown that the weapons used were from Iranian production and had not been used from Yemen.
Esper said military reinforcements in the region should be aimed at defending against air and missile attacks. US Army chief Joseph Dunford did not comment on troop strength at the Pentagon on Friday but said on demand that it would not be about thousands of soldiers. Dunford announced further details for next week.
Iran denies any responsibility for the attacks in Saudi Arabia last weekend. Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen were known for doing so. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had then accused her of lying.
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Last June, the Pentagon announced it would send another 1,000 troops to the Middle East to protect US troops and US national interests in the region. Already at the end of May, the US had increased its troops in the Middle East by 1,500 troops because of the "continuing threat" of Iranian forces. Previously, the US military had relocated, inter alia, an aircraft carrier association and a bomber squadron in the region.
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Esper said President Donald Trump made it clear that the US did not want to go to war with Iran. At the same time, Esper said, "We have other military options available should they be needed." Esper urged Iran to stop its "destructive and destabilizing activities" and continue on a "peaceful and diplomatic path". "The fact is that the Saudis were attacked with both drones and cruise missiles" and that they are still at risk.
US President resists weakness accusation
Trump had announced new sanctions on Iran on Friday while defending his course of military restraint. He could at any time "within a minute" order a military strike against, for example, 15 important targets in Iran, Trump said in the White House. He wanted to avoid that as much as possible. To the address of critics accusing him of weakness, Trump said, "In my opinion, that shows strength."
Just under a week after the attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the US government imposed new sanctions on Iran's central bank and sovereign wealth funds for allegedly financing terrorist activities. "We have now cut off all sources of income for Iran," said Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin. The US warned all governments not to cooperate with Iran's central bank.