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article imageSaudis still owe the US $181 million for refueling in Yemen war

By Ken Hanly     Sep 21, 2019 in Politics
The Trump administration has stressed the alliance of the US and Saudis and condemned the attack on Saudi oil infrastructure blaming the attack on Iran even though the Houthi's who control much of the north of Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
The US support for the Saudi war against the Houthis
The US has given support for the Saudis in their attempt to reinstate the former government of Mansur Hadi and defeat the Houthi government that rules much of the north of the country including the capital Sanaa. Iran supports the Houthis.
An article from this May noted the support the US has provided for the Saudi operation: "To reaffirm its support for royal regimes which opposed U.S. negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration armed the Saudis, provided intelligence assistance, and refueled Saudi aircraft (only recently halted). American officials claimed to be saving lives even while supporting airstrikes on civilians and civilian infrastructure. The carnage has been appalling—of the 233,000 dead so far, reported the UN Development Programme, the majority died due to “indirect” causes, including mass famine and a cholera epidemic."
Trump vetoes US Congress bill to end support for the Saudi war in Yemen
A resolution to end US support of the Saudi war in Yemen was passed by the US Senate in March and the House of Representatives in April. This was the first time that both chambers had passed a bill under the War Powers resolution which limits the president's ability to send troops into action. Trump said: "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future."
Saudis have not paid the bill for refueling as yet
Nine months ago the Pentaqon announced that it was seeking to recoup its costs for the refueling of Saudi planes in midair. However, the bill for $181 million has still not been paid by the Saudis.
The original balance due was $331 million but that was revised downward to $291 million. The Pentagon received separately $118 million from the UAE which is a partner with the Saudis in air attacks on the Houthis. It is unclear why the Saudis have not paid up. The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comments.
Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich would not give the specifics of its collection efforts on Thursday, but confirmed that "the process of reimbursement is continuing, and we continue to expect full reimbursement of refueling expenses.”
Some US lawmakers angry at lack of payment
Senator Richard Blumenthal a Democrat from Connecticut said: “Saudi failure to reimburse us for aircraft refueling — hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars — involves both deep insult and costly injury. It is entirely unacceptable that the Saudis have not reimbursed the Department of Defense for hundreds of millions in refueling costs. The American taxpayer-funded U.S. Department of Defense is not the Saudi Royal Family’s piggy bank.”
Inquiries from Blumenthal and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, resulted in the Pentagon announcing last December that it would seek to recoup the funds it had failed to charge the UAE and Saudi Arabia for the midair refueling. The refueling was ended in 2018.
Many Congress members are upset over the Saudi murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi as well as the civilian toll being caused by the Saudis in the Yemen campaign.
Trump has been adamant in asking other countries to share the burden of defense costs. Trump has said that Saudi Arabia will play a large role in sharing the costs of its defense. He also has emphasized that the Saudis are a great ally for its investments in the US and for its paying cash. However, in the case of US refueling costs the Saudis seem to be falling behind. Nevertheless as the US builds a coalition to confront Iran Trump said: “We’re also working on the cost of this whole endeavor, and Saudi Arabia has been very generous."
Saudi Arabia has an interest in keeping the US Congress on its side
Becca Wasser, of the Rand think tank noted: "Saudi Arabia learned about the importance of the U.S. Congress the hard way, as a result of the war in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. With Saudi Arabia at risk of future attacks, they would want to make sure they don’t have any issues looming over their military relationships. You don’t want to want to have a bill with the Department of Defense at the same time you are asking for additional things from the Department of Defense.”
In response to the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure by drones and missiles claimed by the US to have been launched from Iran, the US has sent more troops to Saudi Arabia as reported on the appended video.
More about US Yemen relations, Yemen civil war, US refueling for Saudis
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