Satellite images show that several missile batteries previously deployed to Saudi Arabia, including THAAD batteries and Patriot missiles, have been removed from the area. The images show that the removal happened sometime near the end of August.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later confirmed that the air defense assets were “redeployed,” but did not provide details. The missiles were at Prince Sultan Air Base, near Riyadh.
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal was critical of the move, saying the US must not move Patriot missiles out of the kingdom, and saying that the nation needs reassurance of US military commitment.
Faisal said this was a bad time for the US to withdraw missiles, “when Saudi Arabia is the victim of missile attacks and drone attacks, not just from Yemen, but from Iran.”
With the Saudi invasion of Yemen ongoing, the Houthis have launched missiles and drones in retaliation, though these are mostly in southern Saudi Arabia, a fair distance from the US deployment. Iran’s only relation is that the Saudis tend to blame Iran for what the Houthis do, on the grounds that they are both Shi’ite.
The timing of the redeployments may also be significant, coming ahead of new releases of 9/11 documents related to Saudi involvement. The documents, as usual, are trying not to directly implicate the Saudi government in the conclusion, but with Saudis so heavily involved in every stage of the plot, the administration may have decided this was a good time to be less conspicuously providing the Saudis with military support.