President Donald Trump has approved deployment of U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the request of the two Middle East countries to help protect their critical infrastructure following attacks on Saudi oil facilities last week, U.S. defense leaders announced.

The announcement was made at a news conference on Friday, Sept. 20, where Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States will take measures to deter Iran’s continued aggressive and malign behavior in the Persian Gulf.

The defense leaders also called on other nations to condemn the Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia and to help protect the critical Saudi oil infrastructure.

“The Iranian regime is waging a deliberate campaign to destabilize the Middle East and impose costs on the international economy,” Esper said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2019. (Lisa Ferdinando/DOD)

According to the Pentagon, Iran has increased its military activity in the Persian Gulf, placing mines on oil tankers and seizing a British oil tanker. The country shot down an American unmanned aerial vehicle operating in international airspace.

All those actions pale in comparison to the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities on Sept. 14, which Esper said represent a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression.

“It is clear based on detailed exploitation by Saudi, United States, and other international investigative teams that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian-produced and not launched from Yemen,” Esper said. “All indications are that Iran was responsible for the attack.”

The United States will protect its citizens and interests in the region, Esper said, adding the international community has a responsibility to protect the global economy and international rules and norms.

Regarding the request from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), Esper said the Pentagon will deploy additional troops and military equipment to the region, focusing on air and missile defense.

“We will also work to speed the delivery of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves,” he added.

The Pentagon chief said the U.S. response to the attacks on the Saudi oil industry will send a clear message that the United States supports its partners in the region and help ensure the free flow of resources necessary for the health of the global economy. It will also demonstrate America’s commitment to the rules-based order.