Pentagon contradicts Trump’s $1bn Saudi payment for troops

For the second time in under a week the US Pentagon has contradicted President Donald Trump, this time for his boastful claim that he manged to get $1 billion from the Saudis for increasing the number of American troops in the Middle East.

Speaking of the deal in an interview with Fox News, Trump recounted his conversation with the Saudis: “I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

However, the pentagon has dismissed the claim saying that discussions about how Saudi Arabia can help pay for the cost of the US military deployment are still ongoing.

“The Saudi government has agreed to contribute to the costs of these activities, and discussions are ongoing to formalise these contributions.”

“Contributions of this nature do not lead to the deployment of additional US forces, and they do not drive [the] DOD [Department of Defence] to take on new missions or responsibilities,” pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told CNN in a statement.

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“While we will not comment on specific bilateral defence agreements, more broadly the United States encourages burden-sharing among partners in support of shared security interests, to include defence of the Arabian Gulf,” a State Department official said.

With no mention of the alleged $1 billion, the statements clearly contradict the president, making it the second time in as many days that the pentagon has disputed information from the White House.

On Monday US Defence Secretary, Mark Esper threw further doubts over the reason provided by President Trump for ordering the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad at the start of the month.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper makes a speech during the joint press conference with US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford (not seen) at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on 28 August, 2019 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon in Washington, US on 28 August 2019 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

Dismissing the suggestion that Soleimani presented an “imminent threat” Esper said that he did not see specific evidence “with regard to four embassies,” which Trump insisted was on the Iranian general’s list of targets.

The pentagon’s contradiction of Trump appears to have become somewhat of a pattern. Following the president’s threat to destroy Iranian cultural heritage sites that were included in a list of 52 targets if Tehran retaliated, Esper was forced to extinguish the global outrage at Trump’s expressed intention to commit war crimes.

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