UAE’s bin Zayed ‘shocked’ after US billed Abu Dhabi for support against Yemen: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) attends the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on May 30, 2019. (File photo by Reuters)

The UAE's then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other Emirati officials were “shocked” last year when the US asked Abu Dhabi, a Washington’s close ally, to pay for the military support it had received against Yemen's retaliatory strikes, a report says.

US-based news website Axios, citing Emirati and American officials, made the revelation in a report from a book released this week titled Trump's Peace, written by Barak Ravid.

The report said the US request came after the Yemeni army on January 17, 2022 launched an operation deep inside the UAE in retaliation for its role in the Saudi-led war on the impoverished country.

Following the retaliatory drone attack, Mohammed bin Zayed -- who is now the ruler of the UAE -- reportedly held an emergency meeting with his military commanders to figure out what immediate measures to take in order to repel future strikes by the Yemeni army.

According to the report, the Emirati military said the best way was having Emirati Air Force F-16s and Mirage 2000s in the air at all times, which would require refueling capabilities that the US Air Force possessed. As a result, the US agreed to refuel Emirati fighter jets several times with its KC-135 strategic tankers deployed to the Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi.

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Days after the attack, the military attache at the US embassy arrived for a meeting with senior UAE military officials in which they handed their Emirati counterparts a bill for the refueling.

The American news website said the incident was "deeply offensive" to the UAE as it was further proof of Mohammed bin Zayed's growing feeling that Washington had abandoned Abu Dhabi in a time of need.

“Sheikh Mohammed was understandably upset," State Department counsellor Derek Chollet was quoted as saying by Axios.

"I felt bad that so much time had elapsed, that he was feeling upset and we didn’t have an indication that this was the case. We certainly took it very, very seriously and felt that we responded in a way that we thought was responsive to our friends in need. Sheikh Mohammed did not feel that way," Chollet said.

Washington’s request last year was made during a low point in the US-UAE relationship, with Abu Dhabi signalling unease over what it perceived as the United States’ declining commitment to the security of its partners in the region.

The Emirati ambassador to the US said in March 2022 that the relationship between the two countries was going through a "stress test."

The two sides began to mend fences and returned to a normal course after US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed in the Saudi city of Jeddah last July.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies –  including the UAE – launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015.

The war was launched to eliminate Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and reinstall former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh. The war, accompanied by a tight siege, has failed to reach its goals, but it has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people. The UN refers to the situation in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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