U.S. to deploy military forces to Saudi Arabia after drone attacks on oil sites

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By Dennis Romero  with NBC News Politics
Image: Mark Esper
USA's Acting Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, arrives for his first day in his new position at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019.   -   Copyright  Saul Loeb AFP - Getty Images file

The United States is deploying military forces to the Middle East after Saturday's drone attacks on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that the administration of President Donald Trump has blamed on Iran.

"The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense," U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said at a news conference Friday.

Esper did not say how many troops would be sent, but said they would be primarily focused on air and missile defenses.

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"As the President has made clear the United States does not seek conflict with Iran. That said we have many other military options available should they be necessary," he said.

Saudi Arabia requested what the secretary described as "extra defensive support," he said, and it will "send a clear message that the United States supports our partners in the region."

The move was also made with commerce in mind, as the attack included as a target the world's largest oil processing facility.

The extra troops would help "ensure the support free flow or resources necessary to support the global economy," Esper said.