RIYADH (Dispatches) --- General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top U.S. general in the Middle East, has visited Saudi Arabia and said the country is still asking for American military assistance, even as the possibility looms that the U.S. could reduce the number of troops in the region to pivot toward Asia.
The Biden administration is currently conducting a review of the U.S. military’s assignments around the world over what it claims as the “near peer” threats posed by Russia and China.
McKenzie did not speculate on what the review’s potential outcome might be, but claimed that it is creating concerns in Saudi Arabia.
“I think they want reassurance that they’re going to be helped if they’re attacked by Iran, and they want help against the continuing attacks,” McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told ABC News and Associated Press reporters traveling with him this week to the Middle East.
For years, U.S. leaders have resorted to scaremongering tactics to sell American weapons to the Persian Gulf Arab states.
Iran has repeatedly extended its hand of reconciliation to Saudi Arabia, stating that it is interested in normalizing relations, but the kingdom has followed a confrontational policy with regard to the Islamic Republic.
McKenzie claimed Sunday that while the American military troop presence in the region has deterred “Iranian aggression” against Saudi Arabia, he believes that what is “far more important is sort of the broad spectrum of capabilities that we give them.”
He touted the linking of Saudi and American Patriot missile systems, saying that provide an improved early warning system should Iran launch a missile strike at Saudi Arabia.
“The point that I made today and we continue to make it all the time is: It’s not actually the types of equipment that are here, it’s maximizing the use of the more than
20 Patriot batteries that you do have the interoperable with us, maximizing those capabilities, so that if trouble occurred we can certainly come back in very quickly to help our Saudi friends,” McKenzie said.
“I believe our posture in the theater has prevented a state on state attack from Iran,” he boasted.
“They’re under constant bombardment from Yemen, with a variety of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and small UAS (unmanned aerial systems) they’re very concerned about . We want to help them with that,” McKenzie said.
Saudi Arabia has been waging a destructive war on Yemen which has found a way over the years to respond to the aggression inside the kingdom.
Some of Yemen’s retaliatory attacks have targeted Saudi Arabia’s mainstay oil facilities and targets as far as the capital Riyadh, which have caught the U.S. Patriot systems napping.
Washington has been quick to point the finger at Iran, and used the attacks to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia and deploy additional military assets to the country at exorbitant expenses of the kingdom.
According to McKenzie, in the past three months resistance forces in Yemen have fired about 100 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia.
“They’re proxies of Iran, so they’re under constant bombardment, so they feel that they are under attack, and they are under attack,” he claimed without any evidence.
McKenzie said it’s important to maximize the capabilities of American weapon systems in the region.
McKenzie said while it is possible that an American troop reduction in the region could create opportunities for Russia and China to fill the gap with potential weapons sales, he was not too concerned by that possibility.
“I think we’re still going to have a presence here. It might not look exactly like the presence it was five or seven years ago where we get hundreds and thousands of forces here, but I think we’re going to play very smart games to leverage what we have,” he said.
“And it’s not necessarily just a ship or just a submarine or just an aircraft carrier, it’s the whole of U.S. government approach,” McKenzie said.