US increases military presence in Saudi Arabia

US increases military presence in Saudi Arabia, sends message to Iran
3 min read
26 January, 2021
The US' foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia is still forming, however there seems to be no move to isolate or limit the kingdom.
The US' foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia is forming [Getty]
The new Joe Biden administration is likely to send more American troops to Saudi Arabia, as the US tries to reinforce its presence in the region and shore up allies against a perceived threat from Iran.

The US military has ramped up its presence in ports and air bases in the western Saudi desert in the event of a clash with Iran, a top American military commander in the region told The Wall Street Journal.

It comes despite Biden's pledge to pull the kingdom up on its history of human rights abuses.

US military commanders have been quietly using Saudi airbases to move troops and material into and out of the region, the report states.

Former US President Donald Trump stationed thousands of troops in Saudi Arabia in 2019 and the Biden administration has signalled that Iran is still a threat to its allies in the region.

A drone attack in Riyadh over the weekend prompted US officials to double down on its support of Saudi Arabia.

"As we work to de-escalate tensions in the region through principled diplomacy… we will also help our partner Saudi Arabia defend against attacks on its territory and hold those who attempt to undermine stability to account," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The attack has not been officially claimed, however the US now fears it came from akIran-backed militia in Iraq.

Friend of Saudi Arabia?

The new movements have been met with cautious optimism in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud told ITV News that he believes Biden could be a friend on the kingdom.

"I'm quite confident I heard in the confirmation hearings, a commitment to the protection of Saudi Arabia…from attacks directed at us".

Prince Faisal added: "So there is, as I said, plenty of alignment and I think we will be able to find a path forward to work together on all of these issues.

"I believe that the incoming Biden administration will be very interested in maintaining security and stability in our part of the world."

"My message to President Biden is that we are in a dangerous part of the world, but also a part of the world that offers much potential and much opportunity… he will find that with all the challenges security poses, there are also extremely important and enticing opportunities that offer a great opportunity to deliver prosperity and success for all."

Iran and Saudi relations remain frosty. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif claimed that he had reached out to Saudi Arabia several times but was turned away.

Zarif said that during his first weeks as foreign minister, he sent messages to Saudi Arabia, indicating that the late Qasem Solemeni approved of the diplomatic move.

The letter was reportedly addressed to late Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal.

The Iranian FM said he expressed his desire to begin dialogue in a bid to resolve tensions between the two countries.

According to Zarif, the letter was sent through a person, who was known to have a "close relationship with Saudi Arabia and its rulers at the time". 

He highlighted other instances in which he attempted to open dialogue, including one such occasion on the sidelines of an international conference, but these offers "were rejected".

Iran and Tehran-linked militias have been accused of carrying out a number of attacks on Saudi infrastructure and Houthi rebels in Yemen have also frequently targeted cities in the kingdom.

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