"In response to the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]'s request, the president has responded with the deployment of US forces which will be defensive in nature," Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. "First to send a clear message that the United States supports our partners. Second, to support the free flow of resources … and third, to uphold the international rule based order … We think for now that should be sufficient."
He noted that the US doesn't seek war with Iran, but "has other options" as well. He said that a "layered defense" could better protect the kingdom in the event of being "swarmed" by drones or missiles, but noted that no system can prevent all such attacks.
The move comes in response to findings by US and Saudi intelligence that last weekend's attack on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province did not come from Yemen, as that country's Houthi movement claimed, but was launched from Iran. Tehran has sternly rejected the accusations, and on Thursday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN that an attack on Iran would mean "all-out war."
Dunford said that decisions on specifics will be made over the weekend, with details announced next week, but noted it would be a "moderate deployment" that would not include thousands of troops.
The news comes amid reports that Houthis would end their attacks on Saudi Arabia with the expectation that the kingdom reciprocate. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of nations, including the UAE and Sudan, in a brutal war in Yemen against the Houthi movement since 2015. The war has devastated the country, killing possibly up to 100,000 people and threatening millions with famine and epidemic diseases like cholera.