The United States is bolstering military power in the Middle East, saying it will send more troops, fighters and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia amid growing tension with Iran.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the deployment of two combat squadrons, an expeditionary military wing (AEW), two Patriot missile defense system batteries, and a high-altitude defense terminal system (THAAD), said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
That adds up to the 200 troops, patriots and radar systems whose deployment was announced two weeks ago, and adds up to 3,000 troops "expanded or authorized last month," Hoffman said.
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The Pentagon has increased the number of US forces in Central Command operations by about 14,000 since May this year, as it continues to lock horns with Tehran. Not all went to Saudi Arabia, however, as CENTCOM's area of operations covers the entire Middle East, including Afghanistan and Syria.
The US "does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will maintain a robust military capability in the region ready to respond to any crisis and will defend US forces and interests in the region," said Hoffman.
News of the deployment comes hours after reports that an Iranian tanker was hit by two shells in the Red Sea, 96 km from the Saudi port of Jeddah. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) said the Sinopa was damaged but not on fire and was still on its way to the Persian Gulf.
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