US takes away anti-missile system that guarded oil facilities from Saudi Arabia, presumably over oil production disputes

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Donald Trump Saudi Arabia
President Donald Trump is facing mounting pressure to react more forcefully to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • US Patriot missile batteries are being removed from Saudi Arabia, and the greater Middle East, several news outlets reported Thursday night.

  • The move could be in retaliation over Saudi Arabia's oil production or it could be due to officials no longer seeing Iran as a direct threat at the moment.

  • Two Patriot missile batteries will be removed from Saudi Arabia, and two more will be removed from the rest of the region.

  • The missiles in Saudi Arabia used to guard oil fields.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two Patriot missile batteries that used to guard oil facilities in Saudi Arabia will be removed after disputes between the Trump administration and the country over oil production, The Associated Press reported Thursday night.

According to the AP, a US official said some fighter aircraft and around 300 troops who staff the two batteries will also leave the country. But two Patriot batteries at Prince Sultan Air Base in the Saudi desert, along with other air defense systems and jet fighters, will remain in the country.

Republicans accused Saudi Arabia of "exacerbating instability in the oil market," earlier this year when they ramped up oil production and slashed prices amid the coronavirus pandemic, the AP reported.

Saudi Arabia's move led to layoffs in some Republican-led states, and in March some Republican senators said if the country did not change it could lose US American defense support.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Thursday night that President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Saudi oil imports, and then said the issue had been resolved.

WSJ also reported that officials said the US is considering reducing other military capabilities, "marking the end, for now, of a large-scale military buildup to counter Iran."

Additionally, two other Patriot missile batteries will be sent back to the US from the greater Middle East region for "planned redeployment for maintenance and upgrades," the AP reported.

WSJ reported that the redeployment wasn't previously disclosed, but the AP added that the US has a limited supply of these systems that have to come back to the US for maintenance and upgrades.

Officials told the WSJ that the US was also considering reducing the US Navy presence in the Persian Gulf.

"Dozens of military personnel" were sent to the region after attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which the Trump administration blamed on Iran, according to WSJ.

According to the AP, it's not exactly clear to what degree the US decision to remove the missile system was because of the oil disputes or the struggle to parcel out the much-coveted Patriot systems.

"We're making a lot of moves in the Middle East and elsewhere. We do a lot of things all over the world, militarily we've been taken advantage of all over the world," Trump said about the move on Thursday, according to the AP.

The commander-in-chief added: "This has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. This has to do with other countries, frankly, much more."

The Pentagon told WSJ after the report was published that they regularly move troops in and out of the region and reassess their forces. According to WSJ, some officials don't see Iran as an immediate threat at the moment.

Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, told WSJ that "the Pentagon is engaged in a long-term effort to strengthen air defenses in the region."

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