Saudi Arabia has made a decision to host United States troops in a joint move with Washington to boost regional security, the kingdom's defence ministry said, as tensions soar in the Gulf.
The U.S. army left Saudi Arabia in 2003 after a twelve-year presence that started when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991. "US Central Command continually assesses force posture in the region and is working with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities to base US assets at the appropriate locations".
The Pentagon confirmed it has authorized movement of U.S. troops and resources to Saudi Arabia in a statement issued later that day, validating the ongoing rumors and reports of a buildup of U.S. forces in the country and neighboring Qatar, deployed to "counter the Iran threat".
The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf that have impacted global oil markets. The Pentagon did not say where the troops would be deployed at the time.
According to the CNN report, the site for the deployment of the U.S. troops - the Prince Sultan Air Base - was chosen because it is located in a remote area that would take longer for Iranian missiles to reach.
Last month, Iran shot down a USA surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, accusing it of violating Iranian airspace.
Tensions have soared between Washington and Tehran since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord that Iran signed with six world powers.
But it also introduces a political and diplomatic complication for the Trump administration, accused by critics of coddling the Saudis even after the murder last fall of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
Friction between the U.S. and Iran has worsened since Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from a historic nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The US has since tightened sanctions it re-imposed on Iran's oil sector.
At the peak of the Iraq war, 200 USA aircraft were stationed at the Prince Sultan air base, which is situated around 80 kilometers south of Riyadh. Supported by an all-American array of creature comforts like fast-food restaurants and swimming pools, US forces there flew and maintained air force fighters and other warplanes. In 2001, the base became home to the USA military's main air control organization, known as the Combined Air Operations Center, which orchestrated the air war in Afghanistan until it was relocated in 2003 to al Udeid airbase in Qatar.