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US deploys additional troops in Middle East amid tensions with Iran — Pentagon

At the same time, he assured that Washington was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran, but will be ready for any developments

WASHINGTON, September 21. /TASS/. The United States is deploying additional troops and missile defenses in the Middle East amid tensions with Iran, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters in Pentagon on Friday.

The briefing, which was not announced in advance, was held in the wake of a closed inter-departmental conference chaired by US President Donald Trump. Its aim was to consider future US actions with regard to the present-day escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

"To prevent further escalation, Saudi Arabia requested international support to help protect the kingdom’s critical infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has also requested assistance. In reponse to the kingdom’s requests, the president has approved the deployment of US forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense. We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves," Esper said.

He went on to say that those measures pursue several goals.

"The purpose of the additional defensive support we will provide is as follows. First, to send a clear message that the United States supports our partners in the region. Second, to ensure the free flow of resources, necessary to support the global economy. And, third, to demonstrate our commitment to upholding the international rules-based order that we have long called on Iran to obey," the US defense chief continued.

At the same time, he assured that Washington was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran, but will be ready for any developments.

"As the president has made clear, the United States does not seek conflict with Iran. That said, we have many other military options available should they be necessary," Esper said.

Hundreds, not thousands

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, said the number of US servicemen to be deployed will be counted in hundreds, "not thousands."

"I would say, at this point - a moderate deployment," Dunford said, answering to a reporter’s question about the number of troops. "That’s fair to say - not thousands."

He said more details would be available next week.

"We haven’t decided on specific units yet," the US general added.

Saudi Aramco attacks

The facilities of the Saudi Aramco oil company in the east of Saudi Arabia were attacked by ten drones in the early hours of September 14. In particular, the world’s biggest oil refinery near the city of Abqaiq and a refinery near Khurais, where Saudi’s second largest oil field is located, came under the attack. The attacks sparked fires at 13 facilities. As the result of the attack, the output of the world’s biggest oil producer dropped by 5.7 million barrels a day.

Yemeni Houthi rebels from the Ansar Allah movement claimed responsibility for the incident. Washington and Riyadh blamed the attack on Iran. Tehran strongly dismissed those accusations as baseless. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with CNN that a full-scale military conflict in the region was possible if Iran is attacked.