Senators to Force Vote on $1.15 Billion Saudi Arms Sale

September 10th, 2016 - by admin

Jordain Carney / The Hill & Nikita Vladimirov / The Hill – 2016-09-10 00:48:06

Senators to Force Vote on $1.15 Billion Saudi Arms Sale
Jordain Carney / The Hill

(September 8, 2016) — A group of senators is planning to force a vote this month to block a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a joint resolution of disapproval on Thursday that, if passed, would undercut a planned sale of tanks and related equipment.

Paul said in a statement that selling the military equipment to Saudi Arabia “is a recipe for disaster and an escalation of an ongoing arms race in the region.”

Senators are using a little-known loophole in the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to bring the resolution to the floor.

Under the AECA, senators have to give a Senate committee 10 calendar days to take up the resolution before they can bring it back to the Senate floor. Under that timeline, the earliest the senators could force a vote is Sept. 19.

The State Department approved the sale last month. A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis, Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, but lawmakers are concerned the equipment will be used in missions that kill civilians and worsen the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Murphy added that the war in Yemen “has become a disaster that is making our country less safe every day.”

“Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], are getting stronger. Until the Saudis conduct changes, the US should put a pause on further arms sales,” he said.

Thursday’s resolution comes after 64 House lawmakers sent a resolution to President Obama last month asking that he delay the sale. Murphy and Paul also introduced an amendment to an annual defense policy bill to bolster congressional oversight of military sales to Saudi Arabia.

Also this week, the House is set to vote on another controversial measure involving Saudi Arabia. It would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the country’s leaders.

US Approves $1.15 Billion Military Sale to Saudi Arabia
Nikita Vladimirov / The Hill

(August 09, 2016) — The US State Department has approved the potential sale of $1.15 billion worth of battle tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.

If finalized, the deal will include more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other military assets that Saudi Arabia will utilize in its current operations in Yemen.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency noted that the sale will benefit US geopolitical interests in the region.

“This sale will increase the Royal Saudi Land Force’s (RSLF) interoperability with US forces and conveys US commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security and armed forces modernization,” the agency wrote, according to the report.

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthi, Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen. The Saudis intervened after the Houthi forced the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile in March 2015.

Since then, the coalition has been supporting forces loyal to the exiled president, and conducting operations that have resulted in civilian casualties.

Several US lawmakers from both parties have criticized potential sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, fearing it would be used in operations that kill civilians.

In April 2016, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unsuccessfully pushed a Senate resolution that would have limited weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

“I have yet to see evidence that the civil war we’re supplying and supporting in Yemen advances our national security,” Murphy said when introducing the legislation.

“It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s record on strictly targeting combatants and legitimate military targets in Yemen has been questionable,” Paul said in April.

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