Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved hosting US forces in the country to boost regional security and stability, the state news agency (SPA) reported on Friday.
The US Defense Department confirmed the move in a statement, saying it would deploy troops and resources to Saudi Arabia to “provide an additional deterrent” in the face of “emergent, credible threats.”
The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf that have impacted global oil markets.
On Friday, Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but denied Washington’s assertion that the US Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby earlier this week.
The decision on hosting US forces aims “to increase joint cooperation in defence of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace” SPA said, quoting a Ministry of Defence official, without giving further details.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deployment would include about 500 US military personnel in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a boost in the number of US troops in the Middle East that the Pentagon announced last month.
In June, the Pentagon said it would deploy 1,000 troops to the Middle East but did not say where they were going.
Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened last year when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Trump has said he considers Saudi Arabia an important partner in the Middle East and counterweight to the influence of Iran.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Friday said Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.48 billion contract to build the THAAD missile defense system for Saudi Arabia, bringing the total value of the deal to $5.36 billion. The new contract was a modification to a previously awarded agreement to produce the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor for Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said.
In November 2018, Saudi and US officials signed letters of offer and acceptance formalizing terms for Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.
In April Lockheed was awarded a $2.4 billion contract for THAAD interceptor missiles, some of which are slated to be delivered to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.