US is committed to Gulf's long-term security

By Hassan al-Obaidi in Baghdad

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on November 1st. [Photo courtesy of the US Air Force Central Command]

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on November 1st. [Photo courtesy of the US Air Force Central Command]

The longstanding military co-operation between Saudi Arabia and the US has been reinforced in recent months as the US deploys additional troops and warplanes to the Gulf, security experts told Al-Mashareq.

This additional level of support is an affirmation of the US commitment to the region's security, they said, and has served as an effective deterrent to potential threats from malign state and non-state actors.

These include Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its regional affiliates and proxies, as well as extremist groups such as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and al-Qaeda that threaten the region's security.

As reinforcements of military equipment and personnel arrive in the Gulf, there has been a coinciding decline in the Iranian provocations, the experts said.

Previous incidents in Gulf waters have posed a threat to the security of international navigation, commercial vessels and oil tankers.

These have waned as the US has increased its military support to the Gulf states through training, logistical support and the conduct of joint training exercises.

The Pentagon announced in September it was sending 200 troops with Patriot missiles to bolster the kingdom's defences.

On November 1st, a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducted a sortie to the Gulf region in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners.

This was done in support of shared regional security interests.

The B-52H aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. It is part of a bomber task force based at RAF Fairford in the UK.

When called upon, strategic bombers offer a rapid response capability.

Permanent strategic partnership

The strategic partnership between the US, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states is effective "because it is permanent and not linked to transitory interests or temporary circumstances", said Gulf researcher Ahmed Abdullah al-Shahrani.

The arrival of US ground forces in Saudi Arabia and the conduct of naval manoeuvers in Gulf waters "forces the Iranians to think twice before taking any action that threatens the security of the Gulf states", he told Al-Mashareq.

This also applies to non-state extremist groups who might seek to interfere with navigation in the international or territorial waters of the Gulf, he said.

The presence of the US Air Force in the Gulf is a stabilising factor, he added, noting that its ability to respond swiftly to attacks serves as a deterrent.

The Saudi Ministry of Defence in July announced that King Salman had approved the hosting of US armed forces at Prince Sultan Air Base, located in the desert south of Riyadh.

"In co-ordination with and at the invitation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary of Defence has authorised the movement of US personnel and resources to deploy to Saudi Arabia," US Central Command said at the time.

The US in October deployed a number of B-1B strategic bombers to the base.

Effective approach

The US has a long history of contributing to the protection of the interests of the Gulf states, political affairs researcher Ahmed al-Hamdani told Al-Mashareq.

The recent deployment of troops and some of the most-effective bombers in the world to the Gulf region "sends clear messages to Iran that the US will not abandon its support to the Gulf states", he added.

"I think Iran has received the message, as harassments in Gulf waters also have declined steeply," al-Hamdani said.

Ongoing co-operation with the US "is generally aimed at deterring any security threat to the Gulf states", he added, as this approach has proven effective.

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