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U.S. Troops Are Going Back to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman believed to have ordered Khashoggi murder (Al Arabiya screenshot)

Almost eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. troops are being deployed to Saudi Arabia again:

The United States is deploying military personnel and equipment to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2003, the Pentagon announced.

“This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats,” the U.S. Central Command said.

It is remarkable how short policymakers’ memories are. The U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia was one of the things that inspired terrorist attacks against our country, and now the Trump administration is putting troops back in that country as part of its misguided and destructive Iran policy. That not only exposes more Americans to potential risk, but it also gives the Saudi government something else that they want at our expense. If the purpose was to impress Iran, it hasn’t worked. In an interview with Jacob Heilbrunn, Zarif dismissed the news.

U.S. special forces have already been operating inside Saudi Arabia for some time in connection with the war on Yemen, but this represents the first time that U.S. forces will be moving back into a permanent base in the kingdom since the start of the Iraq war. U.S. personnel will be stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base:

In June the U.S. military began moving equipment and hundreds of troops back to a military base in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. deserted more than 15 years ago, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the deployment.

The move represents increasing military cooperation with the Saudi government at a time when the U.S. ought to be distancing itself from the kingdom as much as possible. The initial deployment itself is a small one of just 500, but it is significant in confirming that the administration’s Iran obsession and its willingness to indulge Riyadh in everything are as strong as ever. For a president who is supposedly “retreating” from the region and the world, Trump keeps adding to the numbers of U.S. military personnel deployed abroad much more often than he subtracts.

The impasse with Iran calls for deescalation, but everything that the Trump administration has done has served only to worsen and intensify the crisis that they created. Deploying more troops into the region sends exactly the wrong message, and basing them in Saudi Arabia is a serious mistake in its own right. It has never been possible to pursue a policy of relentless hostility against Iran while simultaneously extracting U.S. forces from the region, and now we’re seeing how that policy is leading to a steady increase in our government’s military presence there.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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