In recent months, the US has consistently built up its military presence in the Middle East.
In June 2019, the US Air Force deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Qatar, to counter against a presumed Iranian threat.
Overall, as of September 2019, Qatar hosts approximately 13,000 US troops.
This followed a deployment in May 2019, when the US Department of Defense sent B-52 Stratofortress bombers there, to also counter the same threat.
In the UAE, in June 2019, F-15E fighter jets were deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE.
Alongside these deployments, approximately 1,000 troops were sent to the region, likely split between the UAE and Qatar.
In early October 2019, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed the deployment of 2,800 more troops, fighter jets and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered the deployment of additional service members, two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Missile batteries and one THAAD missile defense system.
Esper said U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia will number approximately 3,000.
“Saudi Arabia is a longstanding security partner in the Middle East and has asked for additional support to supplement their own defenses and defend the international rules based order,” said Esper. “In response to Iranian provocation since May, the U.S. has deployed an array of additional capabilities to the region.”
The Iranian provocation in question was a strike on Aramco’s oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which saw missiles and drones pass through Patriot missile defense batteries largely unscathed and struck the infrastructure.
The US and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran, despite there being no evidence, Tehran denied all accusations and said it had nothing to do with it.
In October 2019, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said that the U.S. “does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest in the region.”
On January 1st, the US announced that it was deploying 750 more troops to Iraq, following a storming of its embassy in Baghdad, and approximately 3,000 were ready to be deployed in the following days.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that “in response to recent events” in Iraq, and at Trump’s direction, he authorized the immediate deployment of the infantry battalion from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Esper said in a written statement.
The 750 soldiers deploying immediately were in addition to 14,000 US troops who had deployed to the Gulf region since May 2019 in response to concerns about Iranian aggression, including its alleged sabotage of commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf.
At the time of the attack the US had about 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train Iraqi forces and help them combat Islamic State extremists.
Since December 20th, the US Navy’s Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) was deployed after picking up Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Made up of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD-21) and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), the Bataan ARG took aboard the Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C. and is ready for its six-month deployment.
“We’ve been anchored kind of to the Arabian Gulf [Persian Gulf] for quite some time,” Capt. Lance Lesher, the commodore of Amphibious Squadron 8 told USNI.
“Now, and with great power competition, the emphasis is that we are not limited to one specific area: the Baltic, the Med, the Arabian Gulf, the Indian Ocean. What I’m getting from my bosses consistently is, we are worldwide deployable and we need to do all those missions.”
It is unclear if the Bataan ARG would be deployed specifically in the Persian Gulf and not sent somewhere in the Atlantic, but it is highly likely that it will remain in the case of an escalation with Iran, following Qods Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- US Deploys More Troops to Iraq To Employ Its “Right of Self-Defense”
- WSJ Claims US Is Deploying Troops to Middle East. Pentagon Instantly Denies
- Fresh U.S. Troops, Armored Vehicles Enter Northeast Syria