Citing administration officials, The Wall Street Journal reports that several MIM-104 Patriot air defense batteries have been pulled out of Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. At least one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was also withdrawn from Saudi Arabia along with fighter squadrons, although Riyadh recently asked the US for help in defense against constant Iran-backed Houthi bombardment from Yemen and potential attack by Iran. The Pentagon replied that the Saudis are capable of meeting most their defensive needs. While hundreds of troops manning the systems are being withdrawn, tens of thousands remain including 2,500 in Iraq.
These withdrawals conflict with recent statements in Riyadh by Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzi who stressed Saudi concerns. “I believe our posture in the theater has prevented a state on state attack from Iran,” he said.
A senior defense official told the WSJ that while Riyadh’s war against the rebel Houthi movement in Yemen continues, in recent weeks significant progress has been made by the Biden administration in negotiations to return to the 2015 nuclear accord. The shifts are described as part of a larger redeployment plan involving thousands of US troops around the globe as the Pentagon moves away from the War on Terror toward what it calls “great power confrontation” with Russia and China.