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Saudi Arabia officially confirms deployment of US troops as tensions with Iran rise

US troops have not been present in Saudi Arabia since 2003 [Getty Archive]

Date of publication: 20 July, 2019

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The Saudi defence ministry has officially confirmed that US troops will be deployed to Saudi Arabia as tensions with Iran increase.
Saudi Arabia officially confirmed on Friday that US troops will be deployed on its territory as tensions with Iran soar.

"Based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and their desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability... King Salman gave his approval to host American forces," a Saudi defence ministry spokesman was quoted by the Saudi state news agency said.

On Friday, the US Defence Department said that it was deploying the troops to provide "an additional deterrent" against "emergent, credible threats" in the Gulf region.

Previous reports said that 500 US troops would be deployed to the Prince Sultan Air Base, which is around 80 kilometres south of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

US F-22 stealth jets and other jet fighters will also be deployed there.

Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the US invasion of Iraq.

The US presence in Saudi Arabia lasted 12 years, starting with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

As many as 200 US aircraft were stationed at the Prince Sultan air base situated around 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Saudi capital Riyadh at the peak of the Iraq war, and as many as 2,700 missions a day were handled by the US headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

But relations between the two countries were not always easy during the 12 years of cooperation, particularly following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York which were orchestrated by Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Tensions in the Gulf increased further on Friday as Iran said it had confiscated a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and as US President Donald Trump insisted that the US military had downed an Iranian drone that was threatening a US naval vessel, despite denials from Tehran.

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