The newspaper, citing officials, reported that around eight Patriot weapon systems are on the move, most of them from Saudi Arabia. Batteries are also being moved out of Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait.
In addition, the United States is withdrawing from Saudi Arabia another anti-missile system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and reducing jet fighter squadrons in the Middle East.
“What you are seeing is a realignment of resources with strategic priorities,” an official told the Journal, adding that the United States still has “tens of thousands of forces in the region, we still have forces in Iraq and in Syria, these forces are not leaving. We still have our bases in the countries of our Gulf partners, they are not closing, there is still a substantial presence, a substantial posture in the region.
According to the Journal, the measures began after a June 2 phone call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the country’s defense minister. A Pentagon reading of the appeal, in which Austin reportedly informed the crown prince of the withdrawals, made only a brief mention of “bilateral efforts to improve Saudi Arabia’s defenses.”
The Pentagon began sending anti-missile batteries and the THAAD system to Saudi Arabia in 2019 following Iranian drone and missile attacks on two major oil facilities. Iraq received Patriot systems after Iranian-backed militants fired missiles at an air base where US forces were stationed following the January 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani .
News of the logistical move comes amid the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which the Biden administration says will be completed by this summer. It also comes as the State Department continues negotiations with Iran to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal, which then-President Donald Trump left in 2018.
Last month, the head of the US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, told reporters that Russia and China would likely seek to expand their influence in the Middle East as the United States tries to reduce its presence.
“The wider Middle East is an area of intense competition between the great powers. And I think as we adjust our position in the region, Russia and China will take a very close look at whether a vacuum opens up that they can exploit, ”McKenzie said.
“I think they see the United States changing its posture to look at other parts of the world and they feel there might be an opportunity there. “
Pentagon officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.