WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sending 500 troops to Saudi Arabis and shifting other forces in the region in response to what it says is continuing threats from Iran.
Some of the 500 new troops to the region are already at the Prince Sultan Air Base east of the Riyadh, the Saudi capital. They are laying the ground work for a Patriot anti-missile battery as well as performing manual labor to improve parts of the runway and tarmac areas, Pentagon officials, speaking on background, said Thursday.
The location was selected as it is believed to be out of range of Iranian missiles, a claim some analysts say is not necessarily accurate.
Those 500 are included in the 1,000 additional troops the Pentagon announced in June who were en route to the Middle East. Some of those forces shifted from other locales in the Middle East to be in a position to deter Iran, Pentagon officials had said in June.
Officially, Pentagon officials rarely confirm on the record troop deployments to Saudi Arabia because of political sensitivities in that nation —- as well as growing unhappiness in Congress with Saudi Arabia, the home of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers.
The commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, is touring U.S. facilities in the region this week.
The deployment comes as the House passed three resolutions to block the Trump administration from selling billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia. The votes followed Senate passage of similar resolutions in June.
President Trump has said he will veto the resolutions. Neither the House or Senate votes were close to the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto.
House and Senate members remain angry at mounting civilian casualties in the Saudi air campaign in Yemen, Trump’s declaration of an emergency to bypass the congressional review process for $8.1 billion in weapon sales to the Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as orchestrated by the Saudi government.