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US tells Saudi, UAE to cough up unpaid $331m bill for military campaign in Yemen

File photo of a fighter jet of the Royal Saudi Air Force [Qatar Tribune/Facebook]
File photo of a fighter jet of the Royal Saudi Air Force [Qatar Tribune/Facebook]

The US Pentagon has demanded $331 million from Saudi Arabia and the UAE for refuelling jets during the Yemen campaign as relations between Washington and its Gulf allies takes a nose-dive since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Referring to the demand to cough up money for refuelling, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said: “Due to errors in accounting by the Pentagon, the United States had not properly charged Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for those services.”

He continued and said that this was “good news for US taxpayers, and underscores the need for strong oversight of the Department of Defence.”

READ: Saudi Arabia denounces US Senate resolutions on Khashoggi and Yemen

Reed has been one of the most critical of US President Donald Trump’s handling of the Khashoggi killing and accused the president of lying about the CIA’s conclusion of the murder.

Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that contrary to the conclusion of Trump, the CIA determined that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MBS, was “directly involved” in the assassination of Khashoggi.When asked by CNN last month if the president was lying about the conclusion of the CIA, Reed responded, “Yes.

The US had been refuelling Emirati and Saudi warplanes in Yemen since March 2015, however since US intelligence reached the conclusion that MBS had authorised the killing, Trump’s assistance in the conflict has come under sharp scrutiny, leading to a Senate vote on Thursday, where a resolution was approved to suspend Pentagon’s support for Riyadh.

READ: Yemeni mothers forced to choose which child starves, says aid group

Senators also voted unanimously to hold MBS responsible for the killing of Khashoggi.

Turkish sources reported that the Pentagon had confirmed that the Saudis had not paid a penny of the bill that American taxpayers have footed for years, whereas the UAE “has provided some repayment for refuelling services.”

With Trump’s promise of “America first”; a remark that is meant to demonstrate his commitment to getting the best return for every US dollar spent abroad, Saudi’s free ride on the back of US taxpayers will come as a big surprise to Americans.

Riyadh is said to be reviewing the charges and in the meantime Abu Dhabi is expected to pay the bill in instalments.

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Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUAEUSYemen