The U.S. Senate has narrowly defeated a move to block President Donald Trump's planned sale of $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia out of concern they could be used to kill civilians in Yemen. The Senate's 53-47 vote on June 13 cleared the way for the United States to deliver the weapons, which are part of Trump's proposed $110 billion arms package for Riyadh.
Trump, Saudi Arms Deal
cartoon by Hani Ansari, Iranian daily Shargh
The Trump deal reversed a decision by former President Barack Obama to
withhold sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia's armed forces
after a Saudi air strike on a funeral in Yemen last year killed more than 140
While Trump has touted the arms sales as a boon for jobs in the U.S. defense industry and the fight against Iran-backed militias and terrorists in the Middle East, opponents of the sales are concerned about Saudi human rights abuses and mass killings of civilians in Yemen's civil war.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators who supported the sales said the United States can't deny its Middle East allies the weapons they need to combat Islamic State extremists and rein in Iran's aggression in the region.
Senator Lindsey Graham said rejecting the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia would have been a victory for Iran.
"If you don't think containing Iran and keeping them from toppling Yemen, Iraq, Syria, [and] Lebanon is in our national interest, you're making a huge mistake," he said.
But Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who led opposition to the arms sales along with Republican Senator Rand Paul, said the close vote showed that "Congress is finally taking notice that Saudi Arabia is using U.S. munitions to deliberately hit civilian targets inside Yemen."
Paul, who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination last year, said
Saudi Arabia was the "No. 1 exporter of jihadist philosophy" in the world.
"I am embarrassed that people would bring up trying to feather the nests of corporations in order to sell these weapons," Paul said. "Saudi Arabia is not a reliable ally."
The Mission and the Kingdom: Wahhabi Power Behind the Saudi Throne
by David Commins - November 2016 (order from amazon)
The war in Yemen is pitting the country's internationally recognized government,
backed by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, against Iranian-backed Shi'ite
rebels known as Huthis.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is supported by the United States, has been carrying out air strikes in Yemen since March 2015, and thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting, most of them due to the air strikes, according to the United Nations.
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Senate should have refused to give the most sophisticated and deadly weapons to the Saudis.
"We need to send a message to both the Trump administration and the Saudis to work much harder to avoid civilian casualties, expedite humanitarian relief, and push for a peaceful end to the war through a negotiated political settlement," Cardin said.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
A Call to End U.S. Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia - A coalition of activists and U.S. lawmakers alarmed about Saudi Arabia's punishing war in Yemen is trying to block the Trump administration's pending $510 million weapons sale to Riyadh. The coalition is backing a pair of resolutions in both houses of Congress to overrule the sale. In a June 8 letter signed by 41 human rights groups, including Win Without War, Project on Middle East Democracy, and the Yemen Peace Project, activists have called upon legislators to reject the Trump's administration's proposed arms deal. -Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, LobeLog
Response to Passing of Deeply Flawed Iran Sanctions Bill (S.722) - "With a vote for this flawed sanctions bill the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decided to give Donald Trump new tools to kill the Iran deal and stumble into war with Iran. After Iranians overwhelmingly voted for openness and engagement, Senators have effectively endorsed Trump's calls for a provocative and dangerous approach to the Middle East. NIAC Action condemns this vote and urges the full Senate to abstain from moving the bill forward." -NIAC Action
Costs of the Clenched Fist - - In his first inaugural address, one of President Barack Obama's messages to America's adversaries was that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." A few years later, the unclenching of Iran's fist was marked by the election of reformist Hassan Rouhani and the entry of Iran into negotiations with the United States and five other powers, leading to a detailed agreement in which Iran accepted severe limitations on, and intrusive scrutiny of, its nuclear program and closed all possible pathways to possible acquisition of a nuclear weapon. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog
Trump's Alignment with Sunni Autocrats Masks Shallow Understanding of Region - President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia has engendered endless press reporting and analysis. Two key points stand out in the media coverage. First, the trip was mostly show than action. Second, the Saudis played up to Trump's craving for adulation and narcissism. They knew he was a fickle showman and acted accordingly. He of course loved it, and they proved that rich princely Bedouins could capture the world stage, at least for a fleeting moment. -Emile Nakhleh
JUST WHISTLING A TUNE IN A HURRICANE Mr. Trump's Historic First Foreign Trip - I watched with great disgust President Trump's long delivery at the gathering of Moslem heads of state in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His half-hour-long speech was eloquently worded, obviously not his words, as he lacks the degree of literacy or the command of the language required for that. The content of his speech was rhetorical, hypocritical and transparently shallow and, I might add, disgracefully dishonest. -Kambiz Zarrabi
Arms Deal Stories Omit War Crimes Arms Will Be Used For - The Trump administration wrapped up a weapons deal with the Saudi Arabian government this week that will be worth up to $350 billion over the next ten years. News of the deal came as Trump visited Riyadh and paid fealty to one of the United States' most enduring allies in the Middle East. -Adam Johnson, LobeLog
Trump's Riyadh Speech: Bowing to the Saudi Regime - The bar for Donald Trump's speech in Riyadh had been set so low that it was scraping the sand. How much could be expected from a notorious exploiter of Islamophobia speaking to a gathering of leaders of majority Muslim countries? Getting through the experience without causing major new damage should perhaps be considered a success. Perhaps Trump and his speechwriters were wise not to attempt anything more. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog 5/24/17
Trump in the Middle East: From 'America First' to Saudi and Israel first -
President Donald Trump's visit to the Middle East has turned out as expected: no
single act of outreach to the Muslim world could undo his fueling of
Islamophobia and no amount of Iranophobia could cover up the irony of Trump and
Saudi Arabia uniting against intolerance. -Trita Parsi, Middle East
... Payvand News - 06/14/17 ... --