U.S. ramps up military presence in oil-rich Saudi Arabia

The U.S. is sending additional troops to Saudi Arabia to protect the oil-rich kingdom from Iranian attacks.

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Secretary of Defense Mike Esper authorized deploying two more fighter squadrons, an expeditionary wing, two Patriot missile batteries and one high-altitude missile defense system after a request from U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon announced on Friday.

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U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia has increased by 14,000 since May -- and by 3,000 in the past month -- as part of what the Defense Department calls "an investment into regional securtiy".

On Sept. 14, drone attacks on two of Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil facilities sliced the country's oil production in half.  A rebel group in Yemen called Houthi said that it was responsible for what happened, but the U.S. government disagreed and promptly cited Iran as the real culprit. Iran denies the accusation.

"The United States does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest," chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

Saudi Arabia is home to 18 percent of the world's oil and is the globe's largest exporter of the substance.

"There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack," President Trump said on Twitter last month.

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