OPN 190721 SAUDI-1563712425907
US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), shakes hands with Saudi military officers during his visit to a military base in Al Kharj in central Saudi Arabia on July 18, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

The announcement that US ground troops are being deployed in Saudi Arabia sends a clear message that Washington and the kingdom are in unison and lockstep to ensure the safety, peace and stability of this region. While there are forces at work across the Gulf intent on spreading uncertainty, creating tensions and threatening the free passage of maritime vessels to disrupt the critical flow of petrochemicals to international markets, the deployment of the US forces into Saudi Arabia underlines the unity of purpose in maintaining security.

There are long and deep ties between Washington and Riyadh and this deployment is but the latest chapter in their joint efforts to provide the conditions where negative forces and those who seek conflict are faced with the cold and clear reality that their seditious and malfeasant efforts will not succeed. Indeed, the deployment has been approved by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, adding that it would “strengthen regional stability and security”.

Make no mistake, this deployment sends a clear message to Tehran that its actions in stoking tensions across this region will not be tolerated.

When faced with a common threat, Gulf nations can rely on the terms of their common defence strategy, the Peninsula Shield. US troops were first deployed in the kingdom in preparations for Operation Desert Storm — the same crisis that led to Peninsula Shield — and had a presence in the kingdom up to 2003.

These are tense times. In the waters of the Arabian Gulf, through the critical bottleneck of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran is intent on disrupting maritime traffic. In the past two months, four tankers have been attacked off the east coast of the UAE, two more targeted in the Arabian Sea, another threatened and two more detained.

Clearly, Iran has a renewed agenda that ignores every convention and norm covering peaceful maritime traffic and vessels. Item 1 on that agenda is to spread sedition and extremism from the Bal Al Mandab to the Mediterranean — all to advance its sectarianism.

The tentacles of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have armed Al Houthis in Yemen, destabilised and interfered in Iraq’s internal affairs, propped up the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria, disrupted civil society in Lebanon and spread sedition in the Gulf. When an airport in Saudi Arabia is attacked by drones, that is one step too far. Iran has taken too many similar steps of late, and the welcome presence of US troops in the kingdom should make it think twice.