US starts removing Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia

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As tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have somewhat calmed down from the tipping point it had reached last year, the United States has started removing its Patriot anti-missile systems and equipment from the kingdom, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Washington was pulling four Patriot missile batteries from the region.

The Hill newspaper said that a US official confirmed that two Patriot systems would come from Saudi Arabia — along with the roughly 300 military personnel deployed to man them.

The two systems had been sent to the country last year after a September 14 strike on two Saudi oil facilities that Washington and Riyadh both blame on Tehran, which Iran firmly denies.

The official also confirmed that two additional Patriot systems would leave the region, as have two US jet fighter squadrons.

They said the move happened as there was the feeling in Washington that “threats from Iran are no longer immediate”.

The long-strained relationship between the United States and Iran came to a head earlier this year when the Trump administration launched an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen Qassem Soleimani, sparking weeks of escalating tensions between the two countries.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Iran harder than most countries around the world — seemed to quell additional conflict until an incident last month when 11 Iranian ships repeatedly approached Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

With the redistribution, the US military will now have two Patriots in Saudi Arabia as opposed to four.

In recent weeks, American media has been reporting a strain in the traditionally warm US-Saudi Arabia relationship, as the price of oil crashed because of a Saudi oil price war with Russia and cratering demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many US oil firms are facing bankruptcy, and US politicians from President Donald Trump on down are under pressure to help curtail imports from the kingdom.

According to a report from Reuters last week, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in early April that unless the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries started cutting oil production, he would be powerless to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw US troops from the kingdom.

Oil prices surged 11 percent on Thursday after Saudi Arabia announced that it would raise prices to boost the commodity”s recovery, according to reports.

The increased prices are a reversal from earlier in the year, when Saudi Arabia was selling crude at huge discounts, initiating the price war.

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