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US Capability in the Middle East Expands

Increasing the presence of US forces in Middle East is a delicate balance.

The United States is increasing its power projection capability with a force build up in the Middle East. Primarily, these new additions are to prepare for operations against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, but other potential enemy state threats exist as well. Consequently, US ships in and around the Arabian Gulf will also be on heightened alert, notably since the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney identified, engaged, and destroyed 15 hostile drones and four cruise missiles launched from Yemen headed toward Israel.

Additionally, as Liberty Nation reported, “Meanwhile, Iran-sponsored Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon intensified attacks against Israel Defense Force targets in northern Israel.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared on October 22 on the ABC News program “This Week,” Asked by co-anchor Jonathan Karl about the Pentagon putting US troops on “standby,” Austin replied, “Well, Jonathan, as you know, recently we’ve seen rocket and UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle]attacks against bases housing our troops in Iraq and Syria. We’re concerned about potential escalation. In fact, what we’re seeing is a — is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region.” It’s unclear what constitutes “potential escalation” for the US secretary of defense.

Attacks By Hezbollah on Israel Are Escalating

On October 19, media reports counted 13 Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel.” For the Biden administration escalation may be a high bar. In an October 21 press announcement marked for “immediate Release Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Steps to Increase Force Posture,” the secretary enumerated more fully what the US military was doing and why. Austin made clear, “Following detailed discussions with President Biden on recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East Region, today I directed a series of additional steps to further strengthen the Department of Defense posture in the region.” So, the administration recognizes there has been regional “escalation by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East Region.”

USS Gerald R. Ford (Photo by Andrej Tarfila/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The steps the US defense secretary has taken in addition to placing the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, joining the USS Gerald R. Ford CSG, are to increase the anti-drone and anti-missile capability in the Mediterranean. “I have also activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for US forces,” the Austin press statement explained. Improving air defense around US forces by virtue of where they are located could protect them from missile attacks from Iran and Syria.

Significant Air Defense Capability Being Deployed

The THAAD system is particularly effective. It is mobile and can be employed and ready to launch against hostile in-coming high-altitude ballistic missiles like the kind Iran has operational. There are eight missiles per launcher, and the fire control system is linked with external command and control nodes. As the US Missile Defense Agency explains, the THAAD is a system “with a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight.”

The Pentagon is also increasing the presence of the Patriot anti-missile defense system. As a worldwide deployed air defense system Patriot battalions have proven highly effective. The name “Patriot” stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target, and the system is “considered one of the most advanced air defense systems in the US arsenal,” according to Reuters. The Patriot system is also highly mobile and can be employed where needed rapidly. The air defense umbrella will be vital in defending US ground forces from drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles, specifically armaments that Iran is known to use. In a 2021 research paper, the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies provided a glimpse into Iran’s missile program, explaining,

“Iran’s proliferation activity has focused on the Syrian regime and non-state actors in Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Even though its support for some of these actors goes back to the early 1980s, it is only in the last two decades that Tehran has begun to supply them with more strategic-weapons systems, including heavy-artillery rockets and ballistic missiles, as well as their production technology.”

New Banner Military AffairsThe US is also placing more ground forces on alert for deployment. “In addition, 2,000 US troops were put on heightened alert and are ready to be deployed if needed. The troops are likely Army and Air Force personnel and would be able to respond quickly, particularly to provide intelligence and surveillance, transportation and medical assistance,” Fox News reported. The Biden administration appears to be projecting is the will to employ US forces. If deterrence is to compel US enemies in the Middle East to forego hostilities against US and Israeli forces, it must be credible. Posturing is not power.

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