The Pentagon, in conjunction with the State Department, has increased the presence of Marine Corps security forces at a number of US embassies in the Middle East and Africa in light of increased tensions and unrest following the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, according to several military officials.
CNN first reported the deployment of Marines on Friday.
The Marine Corps publicly acknowledged the deployment in a statement saying it had “been requested to augment a number of embassies in light of current events.”
The Defense Department is not disclosing the number of Marines being deployed or their locations although it’s been known for weeks that security has been increased at US diplomatic installations in Israel including the new embassy in Jerusalem.
“DOD takes necessary steps to mitigate threats to U.S. personnel, embassies and consulates around the world. At the request of the Department of State, and in coordination with host nations, the Department of Defense has deployed additional Marine Security Guards to several U.S. embassies for the purpose of temporarily augmenting security,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told CNN.
Escalating violence in the Gaza strip area has also led to increased concern it could spark demonstrations in other locations.
The Marines are being sent from a unit called the Marine Security Guard Security Augmentation unit which has advanced training beyond the routine Marine Corps embassy guard who protect installations inside their fence perimeter.
The additional Marines “are uniquely postured to respond expeditiously,” the Marine Corps statement said.
Several US officials have told CNN that US embassies throughout the Middle East and Muslim countries are on alert because of three key events: the US embassy opening in Jerusalem on Monday, the beginning of Ramadan and the Nakba anniversary for Palestinians.
Palestinians mark what they call the “Nakba” or Catastrophe, in memory of the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were either driven from, or fled, their homes during the Arab-Israeli war that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
The officials said there have been recent requests last week by the State Department for additional US Marines for additional protection at several embassies.
Officials said that there does not appear to be a specific terror threat, but rather the US will be watching for signs of additional destabilizing and escalatory Iranian military actions or surrogate operations through Hezbollah.
US defense officials also told CNN that Marines in the Middle East have been earmarked as a rapid response force if tensions rise given the upcoming dates on the calendar of concern.
For weeks, the State Department has been working to bolster security at US diplomatic posts around the Muslim world in advance of the US embassy move in Jerusalem, anticipating possible violence.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Nicole Gaouette and Elise Labott contributed reporting