A week after Saudi oil facilities at Khurai and Abqaiq were damaged – in an operation that Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for and which temporarily halved the kingdom’s oil production – the Pentagon announced it was be deploying a “moderate” number of troops primarily “defensive in nature”.
US marine general Joseph Dunford, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, and secretary of defence Mark Esper told reporters in Washington the deployment would not reach thousands of troops, but they declined to be more specific.
There was no mention of possible strikes against Iran, something Mr Trump has raised the prospect of, but also said he wanted to avoid.
Mr Esper, who said “all indications” were that Iran was responsible for the attacks despite Tehran’s denial, said the move was a first measure.
Anywhere up to 5,000 troops are already in Saudi Arabi, and the Pentagon announced as recently as July it was deploying a further 500 soldiers as tensions with Iran mounted.
The news followed an announcement by Mr Trump that the US was imposing new sanctions on Iran.
“I think the sanctions work,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was meeting Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.
“We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank. These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”
He added: “The easiest thing I could do is knock out 15 different major things in Iran. I could do it right here in front of you. And that would be it. And then you would have a nice, big story to report.
“‘But I think the strong-person approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint.”
There had been anticipation Mr Trump might meet Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, next week on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York.
That now seems all but certain not to happen.
The Pentagon said additional troops and military equipment will also be deployed to the United Arab Emirates to beef up security.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies