WASHINGTON — The United States is sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia in what is intended as the latest show of force toward Iran, two Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
The roughly 500 troops are part of a broader tranche of forces sent to the region over the past two months after tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated.
Since May, a spate of attacks have left six oil tankers damaged in the Gulf of Oman, with Washington accusing Tehran of inciting them. Iranian officials have denied that claim. The downing of an American drone in June by an Iranian surface-to-air missile only heightened tensions, prompting President Trump to approve military strikes against Iran before abruptly pulling back.
CNN first reported the plans to deploy more troops on Wednesday night. Defense Department officials confirmed the plans, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because they were not yet public.
Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said there was “no official announcement” of the deployment, but the American military “continually works to manage our force posture in the region.”
The Trump administration has sent 2,000 troops to the region specifically to deter Iran. They are meant mainly to scrutinize Iranian activities and protect American troops already stationed in the Middle East. Some combat aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems were also deployed. At one point, the Pentagon had considered sending up to 6,000 additional troops.
Mr. Trump said last month that he was not seeking war with Iran but, if forced, the country would face “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”
The new troop deployment also comes as relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States remain tense. In May, Mr. Trump used emergency authorization to bypass Congress to sell about $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have troops deployed in Yemen, where they are battling Houthi rebels in a Saudi-led war.
On Wednesday, the House moved to block the arms deal, though that measure is likely to be vetoed.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have denounced the four-year conflict in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has killed hundreds of civilians in errant airstrikes, many with American-made munitions. Thousands of people have died in the fighting, and more than a million have been displaced.
Saudi Arabia’s hand in the killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has also been a sticking point. But last month, during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the president shrugged off his death, calling the Middle East a “vicious, hostile place.”