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Saudi Arabia replacing US Patriot air defences to 'defend itself from Iranian aggression'

The US is withdrawing two Patriot missile batteries [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2020

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The US announced last week that it was withdrawing air defences from Saudi Arabia, after a reported dispute between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia said it will deploy its own air-defence systems to oil installations in the kingdom's east, after the US announced it was withdrawing Patriot missile batteries from the country.

The news follows reports dispute between the two countries over oil production, which Saudi media have been quick to quash.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US was withdrawing four Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia, which follows a disagreement between Washington and Riyadh on energy policy.

On Monday, Saudi media said that the US was withdrawing two batteries from the kingdom but leaving two at Prince Sultan airbase.

Riyadh will deploy two of its "Patriot PAC-3 hit-to-kill missile" batteries to replace the US SAMs, according to Al-Arabiya.

The two missiles that will be withdrawn are guarding oil installations, but a dispute over oil production has led to souring relations between Washington and Riyadh.

The 300 US military personnel assigned to the SAM would also be withdrawn from the kingdom, according to reports.

Saudi Arabia ramped up oil production earlier this year, amid a massive drop in demand due to the coronavirus crisis, which has seen much of the world in lockdown.

Although Riyadh's price war was said to be aimed at Russia, the low prices are having a devastating impact on the US shale industry.

The US deployed the air defence systems to Saudi Arabia last year, after suspected Iranian attacks on shipping in the Gulf and a missile strike on Saudi oil installations.

The US has insisted that the threat from Iran has been reduced in recent months, hence with withdrawal.

But it has led many to suspect that the decision to pull the defence systems out of the kingdom is related to the rare public dispute between the two allies.

"We're making a lot of moves in the Middle East and elsewhere. We do a lot of things all over the world, militarily we've been taken advantage of all over the world," President Donald Trump said on Thursday, regarding the withdrawal of the air defences.

"This has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. This has to do with other countries, frankly, much more."

The pro-government Saudi broadcaster insisted that relations between Riyadh and Washington remain strong and that the kingdom was able to "defend itself from Iranian aggression".


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