By Chris Megerian

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Friday that U.S. air defense forces will be sent to Saudi Arabia.

“The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature,” Esper said at the Pentagon.

The announcement is a response to the Sept. 14 attack on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which has been blamed on Iran. Saudi officials have said the strike was conducted with explosive drones and cruise missiles, and U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo described it as an “act of war.”

Esper said the weapons were “Iranian produced and were not launched from Yemen,” where Iranian-backed militants had originally taken responsibility for it.

“All indications are, Iran was responsible for the attack.”

Iran has denied launching the attack.

President Donald Trump was presented with military options earlier Friday. He has been under pressure from hawkish Republicans to aggressively respond to Iran, but he has been reluctant to pursue military action.

“The easiest thing I can do, like I could do it right in here, would say: Go ahead, folks, go do it,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Friday. “And that would be a very bad day for Iran.”

He added, “It’s all set to go, but I’m not looking to do that if I can.”

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