US withdraws missile shield from Saudi Arabia

The United States has redeployed most of its missile defense system in Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks, even though the country is under threat from the Houthi rebels.

Satellite image taken by Planet Labs on September 10 shows that the US air defense system at the Prince Sultan base, on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, has withdrawn, in which the missile launch sites are blocked. vacant and no activity in the area where US soldiers were stationed.

Planet Labs' satellite image on September 10 shows that the area for the US interceptor missile unit is no longer operational.  Photo: AP.

Satellite image of the US missile site at the Prince Sultan base in Saudi Arabia on September 10. Photo: Planet Labs.

The US has deployed long-range Patriot air defense missiles and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the southwest of the Prince Sultan base runway. Partial relocation of the force was recorded from the end of August, but the US military still maintained activities and vehicles here until the beginning of September.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed some of the weapons had been withdrawn, but stressed Washington remained committed to its Middle Eastern allies. “We still deploy tens of thousands of troops and ensure a positive state in the Middle East, including the most modern forces in the air and at sea, ensuring the national interests of the United States and its partners in the region.” , he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry stressed that the country’s military is capable of protecting its people, territory, airspace and waters, adding that the transfer of US air defense systems has been agreed upon by both sides.

However, former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal said that Riyadh needs to reassess Washington’s security commitment to regional security. “The pledge is that they will not withdraw their Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia at a time when the country is under attack with missiles and drones, not only from Yemen but also by Iran,” he stressed.

Saudi Arabia has suffered many air attacks due to its military intervention in Yemen since March 2015 to repel Houthi rebels, restoring the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is living in exile. .

The US military's Patriot interceptor missile system was deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia in 2019. Photo: WSJ.

US Patriot missile launcher deployed at Prince Sultan base, Saudi Arabia, 2019. Photo: WSJ.

In response, the Houthis often use missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack targets in the territory of the coalition countries, as well as use suicide boats to attack cargo ships and naval ships in the Red Sea.

With the support of Iran, the Houthi rebels have produced a series of UAVs, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets deep inside Saudi Arabia, despite years of dealing with the enemy. military operations and air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

The most serious incident occurred in September 2019 when two factories of Saudi Arabia’s national oil corporation (Aramco) were attacked by cruise missiles and UAVs of the Houthis, halting half of the country’s oil output. this country.

Trung Nhan (Follow AP)


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