The return of the US forces to Saudi Arabia .. Drink drums of war with Iran? | Politics and Economy -

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For the first time since leaving Saudi Arabia in 2003, US troops will be back in the oil kingdom, in a major military development at the height of the great tension with Iran in the Gulf region. The United States sent troops to Saudi Arabia in 1991 during the invasion of Kuwait. US forces remained in the kingdom for 12 years, until Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed after the invasion of Iraq.

From the mysterious attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf to the downing of marching planes and mutual threats, tensions have been rising with Iran since Washington tightened sanctions in May, a year after the United States withdraws from the nuclear deal signed in 2015. Although the administration of President Donald Trump Said it did not want a war with it, but hinted at the possibility of strikes against Iran after accusing it of attacking tankers, a charge denied by the latter.

Number and number?

"The US military return to Saudi Arabia is part of the process of concentration and the United States is seeking to increase its military options if a strike against Iran is to be decided," said London Middle East scholar Andreas Craig.

The Saudi coastline is only about 200 kilometers from the coast of Iran.

The US Central Command confirmed in a statement that the deployment in the Kingdom provides an "additional deterrent" and creates "operational depth and logistical networks".

Saudi Arabia did not say how many troops it would host when it announced on Friday night the return of US troops. But US media reported this week that 500 troops would be stationed at Prince Sultan base south of Riyadh.

Craig saw that the number of soldiers does not indicate preparations for a war, "especially when we talk about a war with Iran." But he noted that these forces "will be present to equip Prince Sultan base for the possibility of hosting (…) squadron" aircraft.

For James Dorsey, a researcher at the Singapore-based Rajaratnam Institute for International Studies, the move reflects a Saudi attempt to restore ties with Washington and highlight their military partnership. He said that the Saudis' message to the Americans is "if you stand with us, we will stand with you."

Roosevelt und König Saud Archiv 1945 (picture alliance / akg-images)

The founder of the kingdom and president of the United States in 1945 in a meeting laid the foundation stone for solid relations

Historic relations have not been without pitfalls

The beginning of US-Saudi relations dates back to 1940. In February 1945, a historic partnership was launched during a meeting between President Abdul Aziz bin Saud and President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the American Quincy. Under the agreement, the kingdom obtained military protection in return for the concession of oil. Over the past decades, the United States has supported the kingdom militarily, trained its forces and sold weapons worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

But this partnership has faced many challenges in recent times. US lawmakers voted to cut Saudi military support in Yemen last year, to prevent the sale of weapons to Riyadh because of its role in the country and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his consulate in Istanbul last year.

Trump also said that the strategic importance of the Middle East to the United States has declined, and that the Gulf countries should pay Washington the price of "protection" it provides.

At a time of intense tension with Iran and the prospect of a conflict with it, the kingdom and the United States are trying to make sure that the military relationship remains as it was and that US forces are ready to protect Saudi Arabia. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to host US forces "to show that the United States remains an important security guarantee and is committed to preserving Saudi security," Craig said.

Amerikanischer Militäreinsatz in Katar (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech .Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

Base Country is the headquarters of the US Central Command

Bin Salman and Bin Hamad

More than 35,000 US troops are deployed in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain (headquarters of the Fifth Fleet), the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

Qatar hosts the largest US airbase, the base of many where some 10,000 troops live, as well as the Sailiya base. Many were founded in 2005 while the United States was looking for an alternative base in the region after it left Saudi Arabia in 2003.

Qatar, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the other, have been cut off since June 5, 2017, against the backdrop of accusing the four states of the emirate of supporting "terrorism". Unlike its boycotting countries, Qatar has good relations with Iran.

According to Craig, one of the goals of Saudi Arabia's hosting of US troops is the Crown Prince's attempt "to divert some US troops away from al-Qaeda, the most important US base in the region." "It is important for the crown prince to get US support (on the ground) to show that he is a close security ally of Washington," he said, like his rival the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

(AFP)

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