U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.,…
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 11, 2019.

PENTAGON - The United States is deploying hundreds of additional forces to Saudi Arabia to deter Iranian aggressive behavior.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters Friday that the deployments include two fighter squadrons, additional Patriot missile batteries, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and supporting personnel.

“Saudi Arabia is a long-standing security partner and has requested additional support to supplement their defenses and to defend the rules-based international order,” said Brian Hook, special representative for Iran and senior adviser to the secretary of state. The troop deployment, he added, was supported by many partners in the region “who are on the front lines of Iranian aggression.”

FILE - A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

About 3,000 U.S. forces have been deployed to Saudi Arabia since an Iranian-blamed attack on Saudi oil facilities last month. U.S. officials have said the attack originated in southwest Iran, but Tehran has denied responsibility.

Esper said the U.S. has deployed 14,000 additional forces to the region since May, when four oil tankers were attacked in the region. Iran and Iranian-backed forces have also been blamed for attacks on two other tankers in June and the downing of U.S. drones.

The United States has increased its defense posture in the Middle East with airborne early warning aircraft squadrons, maritime patrol aircraft squadrons, Patriot missile batteries, B-52 bombers, an aircraft carrier strike group, an amphibious transport dock and drones.

“The U.S. military has on alert additional Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force units to quickly provide increased capability in the region, if necessary,” Esper said.

The Pentagon said the United States is committed to protecting its allies and ensuring the free-flow of resources around the world.

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