Sunday, September 12, 2021

US pulls missile defenses in Saudi Arabia amid Yemen attacks

The U.S. 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 analyzed by The Associated Press show.

While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the U.S.'s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses.

Just southwest of the air base's runway, a 1-square-kilometer area set off by an earthen berm saw American forces station Patriot missile batteries, as well as one advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit, according to satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. A THAAD can destroy ballistic missiles at a higher altitude than Patriots.

In a statement to the AP, the Saudi Defense Ministry described the kingdom's relationship with the U.S. as "Strong, longstanding and historic" even while acknowledging the withdrawal of the American missile defense systems.

Saudi Arabia declined to discuss why Austin's trip didn't happen after the withdrawal of the missile defenses.

Saudi Arabia maintains its own Patriot missile batteries and typically fires two missiles at an incoming target.

While Greece agreed in April to lend a Patriot missile battery to Saudi Arabia, the timing of the U.S. withdrawals comes amid wider uncertainty over the American posture in the region. 

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