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Trump Administration to Stop Refueling of Saudi Coalition Aircraft in Yemen Conflict

John Hudson National Security Reports Focusing on the State Department and Diplomacy. Missy Ryan Reporter covering the Pentagon, Military Issues…

Trump Administration ends the practice of refueling Saudi coalition aircraft, stopping the most tangible and controversial aspect of US support for the Kingdom’s three-year war in Yemen, felt people familiar with the situation.

Moved is in a rising criticism of Saudi Arabia’s conduct in the war. Legislators from both parties have demanded that the United States cease the sale of arms to Riyadh and interrupt aircraft fuel from aircraft fleeing the Saudi-ruled coalition, which surveillance groups have accused of killing thousands of unattended civilians.

While the people are familiar with the discussions, a decision is expected to be public in the coming days, colleague Robert Manning III, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We have ongoing discussions with our partners but have nothing to announce right now.”

Analysts said the move would limit Saudi Arabia’s ability to carry out bombing missions.

“This marks the first time the United States has taken concrete steps to restore the Saudi war effort,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, a researcher at Brookings Institution. “Two administrations have basically given Saudi authorities an empty control to do what they want. Now it will be harder for Saudi people to carry airstrikes deep into Yemeni territory, for example, after the capital.”

It was not immediately clear if The move was initiated by Washington or Riyadh, both of which anticipate a tougher congressional position on the war. Several of the individuals, who spoke on terms of anonymity to discuss a decision that had not been published, said the flight was at least partially questioned by the Saudi military’s increased aviation fuel capacity.

The decision is expected to have a minor effect on the United Arab Emirates air operations, a coalition member whose species fly from just across the Red Sea in Eritrea. The UAE government has said that its aviation activities are mainly aimed at al-Qaeda militants rather than Houthi rebels. The coalition launched its activities against the rebels in 2015, as it feared that their rise would give Iran a foothold on the Arab peninsula.

Yemeni forces supported by the coalition recently announced a new offensive to capture the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeida. Support officials warn that a urban battle could make it possible for hundreds of thousands of people.

The US-Saudi relationship has been investigated further since Saudi Arabia acknowledged that its agents killed Jamal Khashoggi, a distinguished Saudi journalist, last month. Democrats, reinforced by a series of distorting polls in the House, have also demanded greater monitoring of the war.

Although US military officials have continued to publicly defend the Saudi Arabian led coalition’s efforts to ward off civilian victims, privately they have expressed a sense of stuck between a rock and a hard place. US military leaders, many of whom have long experience of working closely with the Persian Gulf allies, sees Saudi Arabia as a key partner in the fight against terrorism that dominated the Pentagon operations since 2001. They also share Riyadh’s concern over Iran’s reach through proxy forces and wild to show support for the kingdom as it encounters repeated missiles and other attacks by the Houthi rebels.

But the officials are also frustrated that they have become guilty of cruelty in a conflict where they think they have a less supportive role and that you often have little ability to shape. The US aircraft activity represents only about one fifth of the total refueling activity of the coalition campaign against Yemen, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The decision to suspend refueling occurs when the Trump administration tries to throw its support for efforts by the United Nations Ombudsman for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to initiate discussions that can lead to a peace agreement. Griffiths had hoped to bring Houthis with representatives of Yemen’s internationally recognized government this month, but in recognition of the challenge the negotiators will face, he hopes to do it by the end of the year, UN officials said Thursday.

Critics say that the Trump Administration’s attempt to promote a peace process is undermined because it has not exerted enough pressure on Saudi Arabia.

“The United States has the gap to end the conflict – but it has decided to protect a corrupt ally,” said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior Houthi official, in an opinion article in the Washington Post.

On Friday, Sens. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) And Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) renewed their calls for cancellation of US refueling in a war that killed at least 10,000 people.

“We must send a clear, immediate and concrete message as we expect Riyadh to enter into good faith and urgent negotiations to end civil war,” the legislators said in a statement. “Riyadh must also understand that we will not tolerate the continued non-discriminatory disruption to civilian and civilian infrastructure that has helped put 14 million Yemen on the verge of starvation.”

U.S. military officials have said that their refueling programs aim to enable defensive missions carried out by coalition plans – focusing on a Houthi site, for example, from which a missile is considered to have been launched in Saudi Arabia – but acknowledges that they do not track what happens once they Aircraft have been refueled. In March, the Secretary General told Joseph Votel, chief of the US Central Command Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) That US forces did not track US fuel or ammunition had been used in coalition operations that resulted in civilian deaths.

Warren condemned the Iranian-linked forces’ acts in Yemen, but said that the United States must insist on liability from Saudi Arabia, as it provides the country with assistance. “This means we have a certain responsibility here, which means we must keep our partners and our allies responsible for how these resources are used,” she said.

Previously, military leaders argued that ending aviation fuel could have a dangerous effect. Defense Minister Jim Mattis said in a letter to legislators that legislation striving to force an end to military support “can increase civilian casualties, compromise cooperation with our partners against terrorism and reduce our influence with saudis – all of which would exacerbate the situation and the humanitarian crisis. “

The trumpet administration also shares intelligence with coalition forces and has continued to support massive arms sales, including precision-controlled ammunition claimed by US officials, allowing the coalition to perform more accurate air operations. US-produced ammunition has been found repeatedly at the strike sites of Yemeni civilians.

U.S. military officials say that Saudi Arabia has taken action to improve its air operations, especially after a 9 th anniversary that killed more than 40 Yemeni children.

During the last administration of the Obama administration, the US military had a significant footprint in the Saudi Arabia coalition flight command. However, there was a reduction in the number of employees there after a temporary ceasefire in 2016 and since then, efforts have been made to keep their distance from the coalition’s targeting.

Moved to the end of more than three years of refueling can not satisfy the critics of Congress, who would like to see broader measures to limit US involvement in the war. The US military is conducting a special campaign in Yemen, along with the Emirates forces against al Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula. It was not immediately clear if this operation would be affected by the decision.

Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

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