The Biden administration is preparing for a significant military withdrawal from the Middle East that includes the expulsion of hundreds of soldiers, aircraft and air defense systems from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Wall Street Journal reported last night (Friday) that government officials said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told Saudi Crown Prince about the plan to withdraw forces in a conversation between the two two and a half weeks ago, on June 2. On the other hand, the network Al-Arabiya reported that there was no connection to a change in the attitude of the Americans in the Middle East, but only the issuance of military tools for maintenance.
“The Secretary of Defense has instructed the U.S. military headquarters to remove certain forces and capabilities from the area, particularly air defense assets. Some of these properties will be returned to the United States for necessary maintenance and repair, and some will be relocated to other areas. We will not provide specific details, “Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica McNalti told al-Arabiya.
In contrast, the Wall Street Journal relied on officials in the Biden administration who argued that reducing the number of U.S. air defense systems in the Middle East was a clear step for the administration to move to focus on growing aggression on the part of China and Russia.
According to the same sources, the Pentagon plans to withdraw about eight Patriot-type air defense batteries from Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Another air defense system called THAAD, which aims to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, will originate from Saudi Arabia, and in addition will reduce the number of U.S. Army fighter pilots stationed in the area.
It is argued that the planned withdrawal reflects some of the recent changes in the Middle East, as well as the strategic plans of Washington under the Biden administration. As the US prepares for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the end of the two-decade-long war since the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the Biden administration wants to shift efforts to China – the main threat to US security.
In addition, the Biden administration’s policy toward Iran, the United States’ main rival in the Middle East, is focused on renegotiating a revised version of the 2015 international nuclear deal. The intense pressure exerted by the Trump administration against Tehran has led to more military complications, according to the same sources.
In addition, U.S. allies in the Middle East have been strengthened, allowing Americans to reduce forces in the region. Saudi Arabia has strengthened its defenses against attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militias and is attacking Saudi forces in Yemen.
“This is not a policy change”
But a Western diplomat quoted by Al-Arabiya rejected claims of a change in U.S. policy, saying there had been discussions about the Patriot batteries since the Trump administration. “All this discussion stems from the age of those systems, and is more about maintenance than anything else. The batteries sat in the desert for “God knows how long,” the diplomat told al-Arabiya.
Officials reported that hundreds of American troops would also be returned from several countries in the Middle East. However, with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, those forces will be transferred to “some of those countries in question,” the diplomat said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman McNalti said the United States had maintained a “strong force in the right area” for each threat.
Another reason for the reduction of forces in the Middle East is that the Biden administration is trying to focus on gaining control over relations with Russia and thus be able to spend less time worrying about Russian cyber attacks and Russian forces – one of President Biden’s main goals at the Geneva summit earlier this week . After their meeting, Putin told reporters that his country aspires to open negotiations on cyber security with the United States.