It seems a direct attack on Iran is off the table for now. The Pentagon said President Donald Trump had approved sending U.S. troops and additional missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the attack on Saudi oil facilities that the administration has blamed on Iran. The move effectively means there won’t be an immediate military strike on Iran, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this was only the first step and further action could be taken down the road.
Although there are few details, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be a “moderate deployment,” numbering in the hundreds, and not thousands, of troops. Other officials detailed that the deployment would also include “Patriot missile batteries and possibly enhanced radars,” reports the Associated Press. There’s also a possibility more warplanes could be sent and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln could extend its deployment in the region.
“In response to the kingdom’s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. “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.”
The move seemed to be in line with what Trump said earlier Friday that restraint “shows far more strength” than launching strikes against Iran. “Because the easiest thing I could do, ‘Okay, go ahead. Knock out 15 different major things in Iran.’ … But I’m not looking to do that if I can,” Trump said. But the president also made clear he was keeping his options of open. “Plenty of time,” he said.
Despite the signs that any Iran strike wouldn’t be imminent, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it was ready for “any scenario.” At a ceremony displaying pieces of an American drone that Iran shot down in June, Gen. Hossein Salami said: “If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them.” Iran continues to insist it had nothing to do with the Saudi attack and Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said in a tweet: “It is clear that even the Saudis themselves don’t believe the fiction of Iranian involvement.”