Oct 22, 2023 - World

U.S. sending more missile defense systems to Middle East amid escalation concerns

USS Eisenhower

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower transits the Strait of Gibraltar June 13, 2016. Photo: Michael R. Gendron/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that the Pentagon will send more U.S. missile and air defense systems to the Middle East due to a "prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops throughout the region."

Driving the news: There has been an increase in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since the latest fighting began between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

What they're saying: "We are concerned about potential escalation…we are going to do what is necessary to make sure our troops are protected and that we have the ability to respond," Austin said in an interview on ABC.

  • He said the additional U.S. forces sent to the region send a message to those who seek to widen this conflict.
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken added on "Meet the Press" that the U.S. is taking steps to adequately defend itself but "this is not what we're looking for. We don't want escalation."

State of play: On Saturday, Austin said he made the decision to further strengthen the U.S. force posture in the region following conversations with President Biden about recent escalation by Iran and its proxy forces against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

  • Austin said he redirected the movement of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group from the European command to the Central Command area of responsibility.
  • The Pentagon will also deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for U.S. forces.
  • Austin also said he placed an additional number of forces on "prepare to deploy" orders to increase their readiness and ability to quickly respond as required.

The big picture: The U.S. on Friday ordered the departure of non-emergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil "due to increased security threats against U.S. personnel and interests."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the order for U.S. staff at the embassy and consulate in Iraq to depart the country.

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