US sends forces to Gulf following Saudi attack

US sends forces to Gulf following Saudi attack

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. (AFP Photo)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that the United States will send reinforcements to the Gulf region at the request of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, following attacks on Saudi oil facilities which it blames on Iran.

The Pentagon chief said on Friday an Iranian attack on an American spy drone in June after Tehran seized a British oil tanker, combined with the attack on two Saudi oil installations last Saturday "represents a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression."

"To prevent further escalation, Saudi Arabia requested international support to help protect the kingdom's critical infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates has also requested assistance," he said.

"In response to the kingdom's request, the president has approved the deployment of US forces, which will be defensive in nature, and primarily focused on air and missile defence," Esper said.

The deployment to the region would be "moderate," Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said, but did not specify the type of equipment or an exact number of reinforcements, except that it would be fewer than "thousands of troops.