The United States recently announced it will be sending 200 US troops and advanced air defence systems to Saudi Arabia. The decision follows the strike on Saudi oilfields earlier this month on Sept. 14. The attack originated from a pro-Iranian area inside Iraq and responsibility was claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The 10 suicide drones wiped out almost half of Saudi oil production although it was soon brought back up to normal levels. Iran denied any involvement.
The request for troops comes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). President Trump’s recent claim that the United States is “more prepared” than ever before to go to war with Iran should chill even neutral observers, as it would be an incredibly dangerous blunder. A powerful Patriot surface-to-air missile system is also on the way with two more on standby as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
Approximately 500 US troops were already deployed to Saudi Arabia this past July to pressure Iran out of taking any hostile actions. This is in addition to the tens of thousands of American troops and significant assets already in place around the Gulf in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. Iran is experiencing the geopolitical equivalent of being backed in a corner. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the crushing American sanctions “merciless economic terrorism” recently at the UN General Assembly and said Iran won’t negotiate with America while the sanctions remain in place. Additional sanctions were put on Iran following the Sept. 14 strike on Saudi oilfields, despite a lack of proof provided of Iran’s complicity.
For its part, Yemen is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, partly as a result of the US-backed Saudi coalition’s campaign against the Houthi rebels. Yemen’s civil war, which broke out after the ouster of former President Ali Saleh between his supporters and opponents, has seen both sides commit atrocities and war crimes. However, Saudi Arabia and its coalition contributing most to the bloodshed, starvation and disease through a devastating economic blockade and airstrikes that have killed an estimated 4,800 civilians since the war started and the Houthis have killed around 1,700 in the same period according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
Saudi Arabia has also allegedly been recruiting Sudanese child soldiers to fight in the Yemen war and has shocked the public with events such as bombing a Yemeni school for the blind and a bus full of Yemeni schoolchildren. Fortunately, a partial ceasefire may be coming up soon between the Houthis and Saudis. Perhaps it has something to do with the recent Houthi claim that they have just captured thousands of Saudi soldiers in a major military victory.
Recent polling by Gallup showed only 18 percent of Americans want military strikes on Iran, and sending more troops and sophisticated equipment there at this time leads closer to that outcome. Saudi Arabia has been identified as being the biggest arms importer in the world between 2014 to 2018, a 192 percent jump from their arms import levels between 2009 to 2013. They are awash in armoured trucks, tanks, missiles, warplanes, guns and bombs, with an estimated $15.6 billion in arms imports from their top five sellers US, UK, France, Spain and Germany. Saudi Arabia also has a highly-trained and lethal military of over 230,000. They are far from defenceless or weak, and sending additional American troops and equipment—which are functionally irrelevant additions compared to the already massive American and European arms exports and Saudi Arabia’s army strength and Gulf allies—does indeed seem to be more about “posturing” and ramping up the media war against Iran than real military logistics.
Nonetheless, posturing can quickly turn into real war as the past century shows us, and American and Western assets in the Middle East and Gulf region are already significant. The move to send more troops and equipment to Saudi Arabia should concern even those who consider Iran a threat, because it increases the tempo of rhetoric and reminder of how easily any incident at this point could lead to an outbreak of direct hostilities between Iran and the Saudi coalition backed by the US.
Certainly Iran is not all some innocent victim of everyone else, and it is a threat to regional stability: but the world-threatening bogeyman it has been built up into by America and its “allies” like Saudi Arabia is making it harder to deescalate the situation and come up with a solution that doesn’t involve catastrophic war. In addition to being unpopular strikes on Iran are also militarily unwise considering its military power and strategic depth.
Recently, during the ongoing debacle over Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump defended his decision to delay military aid to Ukraine before the call because of concern over Ukraine’ s corruption. “Why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” Some Americans and world observers might also ask why you would give troops and risk American lives for a country which is corrupt and beheads and crucifies teenagers and bombs schools for blind people?
Most countries that cut up a journalist in pieces, bomb schoolkids and have the distinction of 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers coming from their shores (two others from UAE, another from Lebanon and another from Egypt), would not be getting American lives put on the line to defend their nation and their oil flow. Saudi Arabia: with friends like this, who needs enemies?