PRINCE SULTAN AB, Saudi Arabia --- Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he will urge allies later this week to contribute more to the defense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region to counter threats from Iran.
The plan is part of a broader U.S. effort to get NATO allies to take on more responsibility for Gulf security. That has included U.S. pleas for nations to send ships, aircraft and air defense systems to the region.
The U.S. has already agreed to send three Patriot missile batteries, dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Esper got a look at one of the Patriot batteries Tuesday as he toured a military base there.
He says the Saudis will “help underwrite” some of the U.S. costs for the additional aid, which includes about 3,000 American troops.
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Oct. 22, 2019)
SEC. ESPER: Well, I think the president has said since he took office, and I've said since I took office, the importance of burden-sharing from all of our allies and partners, whether it's -- whether it's host nation support in Japan, whether it's increased GDP from our European allies, the key is to help share the burden. In this case, the Saudis have agreed to help underwrite the operation and what we're doing here, which is not unusual, and we welcome it, and we think that it's the right thing to do.
Q: Do you know how much?
SEC. ESPER: No, I -- I -- I don't have that number right now.
Q: So, you -- you'll also be asking NATO partners to contribute to air defenses and so forth in the Gulf region as part of the --
SEC. ESPER: Right.
Q: Do you -- first of all, what will be your message to them? And secondly, do you think you'll get more cooperation in that than you've gotten in the maritime area?
SEC. ESPER: Well, I'd say two things. I've already had several conversations with our NATO allies with regard to this. I've talked to the -- the French, and the Germans, and the Brits and others on the phone. I will see them this week, and several of those countries also sent their defense ministers or defense reps to a conference that was held yesterday, I think, or the day before, which -- which looks good. So that will be one of my messages, one of my objectives going into Brussels later this week is to build those conversations, and I -- I told the Saudi officials that I was planning on doing that as well.
Q: Do you think that'll be an easier sell than the maritime coalition?
SEC. ESPER: Well, I think we all recognize that, you know, as the United States as I’ve outlined, there are three tasks here: first, help the Saudis defend themselves against Iran; secondly, deter Iranian bad behavior; and third, hold up the international rules-based order. And that continues to be the focus of our efforts here, and should be the focus of our allies and partners who can help provide assets and capabilities. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full transcript, on the Pentagon website.