WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS NEWS) – President Trump has approved the deployment of U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia that will be defensive in nature, top military officials said Friday.
After meeting with the president, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford informed reporters at the Pentagon about the provision of military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Esper said the move had three goals: to send a clear message that the U.S. supports its allies, to protect the free flow of commerce and to uphold international norms. Dunford indicated that the deployment of forces would be moderate – not in the thousands – though he said there were no exact numbers yet.
The announced deployment follows an attack last week on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. The Trump administration blames Iran, but President Trump said Friday he does not want to order a military strike at this time.
“As the president has made clear, the United States does not seek conflict with Iran, that said we have many other military options available should they be necessary,” Esper said Friday.
The U.S. has concluded the attack on the Saudi oil facilities was carried out with weapons that were produced by Iran and that were not launched from Yemen, as originally claimed.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump told reporters going into Iran would be a “very easy decision,” but said he was exercising restraint.
“Most people thought I would go in within two seconds but plenty of time,” the president said. “In the meantime, they have a lot of problems within Iran. Iran could be a great country, could be a rich country. But they are choosing to go a different way. There’ll be a point at which they’ll be very sorry for that choice. But I think I’m showing great restraint.”