Saudi Arabia has paid the US approximately $500 million to begin to cover the cost of US troops operating in the country, according to a US official. The payment was made in December last year. President Donald Trump asserted last week in an interview with Fox News that Saudi Arabia had “already deposited $1 billion in the bank.” Earlier this week the Pentagon could not confirm that any payment had been made. This is not the first time the Saudis have contributed to cover US military costs. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states paid $36 billion towards the costs of the Gulf War in 1990-91. Bilateral talks are ongoing over precisely what expenses will be covered by the Saudis. That decision will lead to a final calculation on what the US believes the Saudis owe.
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 from Iranian missile and drone attacks. The deployments began after what the Saudis said were Iranian attacks on oil facilities in September 2019. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The US and several European nations blamed Iran for a missile attack that targeted Saudi energy facilities temporarily affecting the country’s ability to produce oil. The military buildup has come despite Trump repeatedly claiming that he wants to reduce the US military commitment in the Middle East, a pledge that he cited when he ordered the reduction of US troops in Syria, a move that received broad bipartisan opposition in Congress, as many lawmakers see it as an abandonment of America’s partner in the fight against ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.