US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

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A Harrier pilot carries out pre-flight checks on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge in the Arabian Sea this week. (US Navy)
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An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea. (Reuters/US Navy)
Updated 25 May 2019

US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

  • Donald Trump says the additional troops would serve a 'mostly protective' role
  • The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US will strengthen its force in the Middle East with 1,500 extra troops, Donald Trump said Friday as the Pentagon blamed Iran for an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective.
"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens."

Shortly after his comments, the Pentagon accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the UAE earlier this month, describing it as part of a "campaign" by Tehran driving new US deployments.
"The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC," said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe "the means of delivery" of the mines.

The 1,500 extra troops will be made up of a deployment of 900 more forces, including engineers, and the extension of a tour by some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.

Officials said earlier that members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the force in the region.
Earlier this week, officials said that Pentagon planners had outlined plans that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

*With AP and Reuters


ME countries continue taking steps to fight COVID-19

Residents of the Lebanese capital Beirut stroll along the seaside corniche, despite the lingering threat of the novel coronavirus, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 9 sec ago

ME countries continue taking steps to fight COVID-19

  • Abu Dhabi announces one-week ban on traffic to be implemented from June 2

DUBAI: Countries in the Middle East are taking different measures based on the ground situation to effectively fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Many countries in the Gulf are easing restrictions amid strict precaution
Abu Dhabi, the largest member of the UAE federation, announced a one-week ban on traffic to and between its main cities, to be implemented from June 2, the local government media office said on Sunday.
The restrictions include a ban on entering and exiting the emirate of Abu Dhabi as a whole, it said on Twitter.
The city of Abu Dhabi is also the capital of the seven-member federation.
The other cities of the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi mentioned by the announcement are Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra. Movement within these cities is allowed as long as a night curfew, already in force, is observed.

Accommodations
Employers in Bahrain have provided new accommodation for workers to ease overcrowding in labor camps as the country struggles to contain the spread of the virus, the state news agency has reported.
The move comes as the country urged employers to ensure workers’ safety, especially in high-density accommodation.
Labor and Social Development Minister Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan said it was important for employers to adhere to preventive measures and commit to social distancing standards at worksites and labor camps.
He said around 8,011 workers have so far been given new accommodation.
A special committee was formed to monitor the cooperation of companies, Humaidan said, adding violators will be punished.
The minister said the private sector should implement working from home as much as possible, as long as it would not affect productivity levels.
Humaidan also said the ministry had ordered 1,055 worksites for regular sanitation, and had urged companies to ensure their workers are aware of ways to prevent the spread infectious and communicable diseases.

FASTFACTS

• Employers in Bahrain have provided new accommodation for workers to ease overcrowding in labor camps.

• Authorities have reinstated a full lockdown in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, East Lebanon.

The ministry will distribute more than 400,000 booklets to 350,000 foreign workers in various languages as part of a national awareness campaign against the spread of COVID-19.

Academic year
Kuwaiti Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi said cutting the school year short will jeopardize thousands of students, and will not be an “easy decision,” state news agency KUNA reported.
Al-Harbi said the decision depends on the country’s health situation amid the pandemic.
He added the ministry prioritizes the safety of students and staff, and also the possible impact of ending the academic year after only one semester.
Students who failed to attend first semester exams would be at a disadvantage if the ministry decides to end the school year, Al-Harbi said, adding there are students relying on the second semester to improve their scores.
A final recommendation will be announced on July 15, the minister said.
Meanwhile, Al-Harbi said the ministry will instruct schools to start online classes for grade 12 students before June 15.

Lockdown
Local authorities have reinstated a full lockdown in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, East Lebanon, after it recorded another wave of coronavirus infections, national newspaper the Daily Star reported.
A five-day lockdown in the town will be enforced, according to the municipality — all stores and institutions will be shut down during this period.
The decision comes as the local government detected infection clusters in the village — including 13 cases among Syrian refugees last week. The town went under lockdown last Friday when 32 people were found to have the virus.
The country has been carrying out targeted testing campaigns, especially in areas conducive to the spread of COVID-19.