US President Donald Trump’s plan to complete arms sales to the tune of eight billion dollars to Saudi Arabia is defied by the Congress.
Rabat – The United States House of Representatives approved on Wednesday, July 17, three resolutions aimed at blocking Trump’s planned sale of guided missiles and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Jordan.
The approval of the new measures marks another political rebuke of Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The relationship has already raised severe concerns in the US Congress over human rights abuses, and the alarming death rates from the war in Yemen.
Save the Children, a US-based international non-profit group, has estimated that 37 children a month have been killed in Yemen by foreign-made bombs. A Save the Children hospital in Yemen was hit by an air attack on March 2019, resulting in seven fatalities.
Amid the escalating military tensions with Iran in May 2019, Trump tried to bypass Congress to complete the sale of more than eight billion dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan.
The US President’s arbitrary move disregarded the US law which stipulates that the Congress approve any major weapons sales.
Many politicians view Trump’s claims of an emergency as exaggerated, highlighting that most of the weapons sales are transactions which could be postponed for months, even years.
“There is no emergency. It’s phony. It’s made up. And it’s an abuse of the law,” said Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on June 2019.
Donald Trump is expected to veto the new measures.
House Majority Leader and Democrat, Steny Hoyer said the three specific resolutions were “most significant” because they would cancel contracts related to arms that could be used in the war in Yemen.
The US President’s three contracts relate to plans by the US weapons-maker Raytheon to build a co-production plant in Saudi Arabia to assemble “Paveway” smart bombs; the type weapons that in 2018 destroyed a school bus in Yemen killing more than 40 boys.
Raytheon’s agreement to co-produce hi-tech weapons in Saudi Arabia was reached in May 2017 during Trump’s visit to Riyadh.
“It’s bad considering the Saudi war crimes in Yemen and the humanitarian crisis they are perpetuating through a blockade and airstrikes on so many civilian targets,” Hassan El-Tayyab, the co-director of Just Foreign Policy, a group in Washington advocating the end of Yemen’s war, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s not a good thing for Yemen or the region or the national security interests of the US,” El-Tayyab added.
It is not clear whether Congress has enough votes to override the President’s veto, but its opposition is a warning sign of potential trouble in the US-Saudi relationship if the impediment of business with the kingdom continues in the future.
More efforts by the US House
The US House vote on Wednesday, July 17 is the latest effort made by the Congress to condemn the US military support of Saudi Arabia, since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. According to reports, US intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder, an allegation which Saudi Arabia denies.
On Monday, July 15 the House approved a measure that would impose sanctions on officials involved in Khashoggi’s murder.
In April 2019, Trump vetoed a measure that sought to end US military implication in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.
Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee have also approved a bill that would close the loophole Trump had used for Saudi Arabia.
House Representative and Democrat, Ilhan Omar has voiced destabilization and terrorism concerns on the matter.
“Backing the Saudi government and the Emiratis is backing war crimes and crimes against humanity; providing them with arms is complicity,” Omar said.
“The US relationship with Saudi Arabia in its current form is immoral,” she added.
R Clark Cooper’s support of Trump on the Saudi arms sales
R Clarke Cooper, the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, has said on multiple occasions that the arms sales are needed. He argues that this, combined with an escalation of US military posture in the Gulf region, was a necessity in countering increasing threats from Iran to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Americans in the region.
“These malign – even provocative actions mark a new evolution of the threat Iran poses to the security of hundreds of thousands of Americans who live and work in the Gulf states, and to the security of the region and our partners,” Cooper said before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 2019.
Cooper faced hostile questioning from Democrats and some Republicans on the committee.
“The arms sales you’re talking about are controversial. There is significant opposition in Congress. And rather than confront that, you go around it,” said Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat.