US to Send 3,000 Troops, Warplanes to Saudi Arabia to Confront Iran

Esper says move is response to 'heightened threat'

Following news that an Iranian oil tanker was attacked with missiles off the coast of Saudi Arabia, the US has announced that they will send 3,000 ground troops and two squadrons of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia to “confront” Iran.

Though the timing of this seems fairly obviously linked to the missile incident, Pentagon officials made no mention that it even happened, instead citing last month’s drone attack on Saudi oil refineries, which Yemen’s Houthis claimed credit for but the US blamed on Iran.

The US had already sent troops and defensive missiles to the Saudi kingdom over the refineries. Defense Secretary Mark Esper claimed the move was based on a “heightened threat” from Iran.

Tensions are certainly higher, even if the Iranian threat is almost always overstated. Having an oil tanker hit with missiles would certainly have this effect on tensions. The rapid announcement of this deployment by the Pentagon suggests they weren’t exactly taken by surprise at this incident with the oil tanker.

Having US troops in Saudi Arabia at all is historically controversial. Indeed, it was one of the main grievances of al-Qaeda before 9/11, believing it was inappropriate to have US troops in their holy land. Adding thousands more is only going to make this a bigger deal.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.