Friday, 17 January 2020 8:00 AM [ Last Update: Friday, 17 January 2020 8:23 AM ]
File photo of US troops in Saudi Arabia (Via US Air Force’s Facebook page)
Saudi Arabia has reportedly paid $500 million to begin to cover the cost of US military operating in the Arab country, a US official says.
The payment was made in December 2019, according to the report.
“Consistent with the President’s guidance to increase partner burden-sharing, the Department of Defense has engaged Saudi Arabia on sharing the cost of these deployments, which support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression. The Saudi government has agreed to help underwrite the cost of these activities and has made the first contribution,” said Rebecca Rebarich, Pentagon spokeswoman.
Last week, President Donald Trump claimed that the Saudis had “already deposited $1 billion in the bank”.
“We’re sending more [troops] to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it,” Trump said. “I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you have to pay us.’ They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”
Critics, including independent representative Justin Amash, slammed the move, accusing Trump of using American troops as “paid mercenaries.” “He sells troops,” Amash tweeted.
Speaking to MSNBC, Democrat representative Barbara Lee claimed Trump deposited the Saudi money in a personal bank account and said the president is “selling our soldiers as mercenaries to foreign governments.”
Later, Pentagon spokeswoman Rebarich said discussions were ongoing to formalize the contributions.
“Discussions are ongoing” is quite different from Trump’s unequivocal claim that Saudi Arabia had “already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”
The Saudi funds are to cover the overall costs of deploying troops, as well as fighter jets and Patriot missile defense batteries to protect Saudi oil installations, CNN reported.
The deployments began after what the Saudis and Americans claimed were Iran’s attacks on Aramco oil facilities in September 2019. Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks, for which Yemen’s Ansaraullah movement claimed responsibility.
UN ‘unable’ to verify claims Iran was behind Saudi Aramco attacksThe UN chief says the world body’s investigators cannot verify the US and Saudi claims of Iran’s involvement in attacks on Aramco facilities in September.
The military buildup has come despite Trump repeatedly claiming that he wants to reduce the US military commitment in the Middle East.
France to deploy its only aircraft carrier to Mideast
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday his country will deploy the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and its battle group to support French military operations in Middle East.
“The aircraft carrier will support Chammal operations (in the Middle East) from January to April 2020 before deploying to the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea”, Macron said at a New Year speech to the French military, according to Reuters.
The deployment comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States, which escalated following Washington’s assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.