Dubai: The US has removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, satellite photos show.
The redeployment from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh came as America’s Gulf Arab allies nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, including last-minute evacuations from Kabul’s besieged international airport.
While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations are worried about future plans of the US as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses. Tensions remain high as negotiations appear stalled in Vienna over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers, raising the danger of future confrontations in the region.
Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University onserved: “From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden — three successive Presidents — taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment.” Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115 km (70 miles) southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand US troops since a 2019 missile and drone attack on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production.
That attack, though claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, appears instead to have been carried out by Iran, according to experts and physical debris left behind.