The United States is withdrawing two Patriot missile batteries and a couple of combat planes out of Saudi Arabia, a US official disclosed Thursday, following disputes over oil production between the Kingdom and the Trump administration.
The American official stated that the US decision pulls out two weapons systems that were protecting Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities but leaves two Patriot batteries in the region’s desert at Prince Sultan Air Base along with other air defense systems and fighter aircraft.
Based on a report by Wall Street Journal, the US would also look at reducing the involvement of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf, citing US officials.
WSJ stated that the decision followed a Pentagon reevaluation of Iran’s threat, no longer finding it an urgent danger to US strategic interests.
The Trump administration has conducted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, which has intensified strains between the two to their highest level in many years.
The officials also revealed that top military strategists believe the missile batteries should be redeployed to tackle other threats, including China’s growing position in Asia, while others say a drawdown might empower Tehran in the region, especially as the Trump administration maintains a steady pressure on Tehran.
The ongoing pressure on Tehran and the urge to act militarily as their only means for trying to alleviate the tension still remains with the maximum pressure strategy, an official told WSJ.
As long as the maximum pressure campaign continues, “there is a sense that we need a powerful deterrent to discourage Iran from intervening in the region,” the official said.
Whether the ongoing oil conflict or the struggle to parcel out the highly-coveted Patriot missile systems was the key element in the U.S. decision to pull it out of the Kingdom, however, is not clear.
Republicans accused Saudi Arabia of fueling volatility in the oil market, which was already bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, when the Kingdom increased its oil output and cut prices this year.
The uncertainty and oil price collapse affected U.S. oil companies, leading to industry job cuts, particularly in Republican-dominated states.
Animosities remain high with Tehran. The Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard had been involved in a controversial incident last month in the Persian Gulf.
Repeatedly, small boats from the Guard got very close to U.S. warships, passing several times in front of them. And the Guard is thought to have initially taken control of a Hong Kong-flagged oil vessel.