ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Ban Saudi and Emirati Arms Sales Now!

June 3rd, 2019 - by Stephen Miles / Win Without War & Bryant Harris / Al-Monitor & Lee Fang / The Intercept

Trump signs off on deal with Saudi Arabian monarchy.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Ban Saudi and Emirati Arms Sales Now!

Stephen Miles / Win Without War

(May 30, 2019) — Trump’s trying to ram through arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And he’s doing it by claiming rarely used emergency powers — justified by the fake emergency his administration is currently manufacturing: war with Iran. [1]

We cannot allow this to happen. 

In order to make Congress ban the $8 billion arms sales, we’ve got to act fast — so it’s time to sound the alarm, now. 

The Trump administration is using a loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to push bomb sales through to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — by claiming executive emergency powers. Usually Congress can reject arms sales through arms control law. Except in the case of an emergency.

And what’s the emergency? Supposedly Iran.

But you and I know there is no new emergency. The real emergency is that John “Bomb ’em” Bolton is leading the Trump war cabinet, using the very Iraq war playbook he used to march the US toward war with Iraq — this time with Iran.

The real emergency is that the bombs that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are buying are the same ones they’re using in their brutal coalition war in Yemen. The real emergency is that arms dealers make billions off the death of Yemeni kids, and are pushing for a war with Iran to make even more money. [2]

War Is the Real Emergency

Progressive champions in Congress, like Senator Chris Murphy and Representative Ted Lieu, are already sounding the alarm to stop Trump’s arms sales machine. But we need to make sure our members of Congress hear us loud and clear as well. 

Because if we keep demanding that war-business-as-usual is the real emergency — in Yemen, in Iran, in Somalia, in Afghanistan — we have a real shot at ending at the very arms sales that fuel war. 

Wars often start between governments. But there’s also a business of war, a billion-dollar industry of mining, manufacturing, dealing, and shipping. And the profiteers of war have no interest in ending or preventing wars. War starts in the arms industry too. And that’s why we have to stop it here — starting with banning Saudi and Emirati arms sales. 

ACTION: Tell Congress to ban Saudi and Emirati arms sales now.

Thank you for working for peace,

Stephen, Mariam, Ben, and the Win Without War team

 [1] Al Monitor, “Trump seeks to bypass Congress on Saudi weapons sales amid Yemen war dispute

[2] The Intercept, “Arms Manufacturers Tell Investors That Iran Tension Fuels Business

Saudi royalty rewards Trump for providing the autocratic kingdom with US weapons.

Trump Seeks to Bypass Congress on Saudi Weapons Sales Amid Yemen War Dispute

Bryant Harris / Al-Monitor

(May 23, 2019) — Democrats and anti-war activists are sounding alarm bells that the Donald Trump administration intends to enact rarely used emergency powers to transfer precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in an end-run around Congress.

The looming battle over arms transfer comes after the House attached legislation ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to a must-pass defense spending bill on Tuesday. Trump vetoed a similar stand-alone bill last month.

The very next day, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., an original co-sponsor of the Yemen war powers resolution, blew the whistle on the unusual arms sales maneuver. Congress has blocked the sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia since last year because of concerns for Yemeni civilians.

“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that will prevent Congress from objecting,” Murphy tweeted.

He went on to assert that “there is no new emergency reason to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia to drop in Yemen” and that “Trump knows he would lose a vote on the sale in Congress.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., echoed Murphy’s concerns in a statement today, adding that the emergency provision could include an arms sale to the United Arab Emirates: “In addition to suffering the reputational problems of delivering deadly weapons to governments that clearly misuse them, US defense firms should exercise extreme caution that they are not opening themselves, their officers and their employees to criminal and civil liability by exporting weapons pursuant to potentially invalid licenses.”

Menendez has placed a congressional hold on the sale of more than 120,000 precision-guided munitions to the Saudis and Emiratis since May 2018, which they need to replenish their diminishing stockpiles.

“My understanding is that the precision-guided missiles are the centerpiece of this arms sale, which is the exact munitions that they’re using to drop on civilian infrastructure inside Yemen,” Murphy told Al-Monitor. “They’re the precise weapons that the [Barack] Obama administration refused to sell to the Saudis because they believed that if we did, we would be complicit in human rights crimes.”

But the potential human rights violations may give Congress the avenue it needs to overrule Trump on the sale.

Brittany Benowitz, a lawyer with the Forum on the Arms Trade and former defense adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that another provision in the Foreign Assistance Act could allow lawmakers to use an expedited resolution based on civilian casualties to override any emergency declaration.

“I think it’s moot,” Benowitz told Al-Monitor. “The Congress has the power to overrule him on this.”

Benowitz added that eight out of 10 unlawful coalition strikes on Yemeni civilians involve the precision-guided munitions.

Anthony Weir, who handled legislative affairs in the State Department under Obama, also noted that “the language isn’t clear” as to whether Trump can use an emergency declaration for countries other than Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand or NATO allies.

However, he noted that didn’t stop President George H.W. Bush from doing it for arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. “I’m confident it probably has happened a few other times,” he said, “but it’s fair to say it’s an extremely rare step.”

Still, an emergency declaration could force Congress to race against the clock.

“The question that’s unknown right now is whether or not the weapons in the sale are already stockpiled,” said Kate Kizer, the policy director for Win Without War, a coalition of activist groups opposed to the weapons sale. “If they’re stockpiled they could get delivery done very quickly. If they’re not stockpiled, it could take two years or however long to manufacture them.”

Kizer noted that the Trump administration may also use the emergency powers mechanism in the Arms Export Control Act in sales to Jordan and Thailand.

“My understanding from multiple contacts is that the emergency he’s citing is going to be Iran and the emergency in the Gulf,” Kizer told Al-Monitor. “My guess is it’s related to the tankers and Houthi drone attacks.”

Republicans have blamed Iran for an attack on four oil tankers — two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian — near the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month. The Houthis have also claimed credit for a recent attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

Democrats, meanwhile, have prioritized ending support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen.

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to attach the Yemen war resolution Trump vetoed last year to their annual defense spending bill on a 30-22 party line vote. And Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told Al-Monitor that he tried to attach a similar provision to the Senate’s annual defense authorization bill during a vote this week, only to have Foreign Relations Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, forestall a committee vote over procedural issues.

But Democrats may have better luck with the Senate’s defense spending panel.

Three of the panel’s Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas — joined Democrats in March to pass the Yemen war powers resolution 54-46 despite Trump’s veto threat. And another member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has introduced a bill with Menendez that would end offensive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other forms of support for the Yemen coalition.

US military aid to Saudi Arabia bolsters the Saudis’ devastating war in Yemen, creating the world’s “greatest humanitarian crisis.” (Photo: Jerusalem Post)

Arms Manufacturers Tell Investors that Iran Tension Fuels Business

Lee Fang / The Intercept

(May 28 2019) — Defense executives from around the country crowded into Goldman Sachs’ glimmering tower in downtown Manhattan in mid-May, eager to present before a conference of bankers and financial analysts.

While much of the world was on edge over simmering tension in the Middle East, as the US and its allies have stoked tensions with Iran, the businessmen at the conference talked of opportunity.

Eric DeMarco, the president of Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, addressed the conference, arguing that his company is “very well-aligned” for the shift in the military budget away from asymmetrical fighting toward nation-state warfare.

The rising threat of war with Iran, Russia, and China, DeMarco continued, could threaten US naval power, which could require ballistic missile threat upgrades, the type of systems Kratos Defense specializes in.

Large arms manufacturers from across the industry have similarly told investors that escalating conflict with Iran could be good for business.

Thomas Kennedy, the CEO of Raytheon, was asked in January about the “demand signals” that could shape the defense budget going forward. Kennedy, according to a transcript of the call, said the “major concern there is Iran.” The company, Kennedy added, had recently won approval to provide missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia, as the country has ramped up defense systems in preparation for potential war.

The following month, Kennedy presented at the Cowen Aerospace conference for investors, again focusing on how conflict with Iran will boost revenue. Kennedy said he had spent time on Capitol Hill discussing “all the information that we’re seeing from Russia and from China and to a certain degree even still North Korea and then what Iran is doing.” The discussions in Washington, D.C., he said, left him “pretty optimistic about the US budget moving forward.”

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson also discussed the rising threat from Iran during her company’s investor call in January. The Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy, a blueprint released earlier this year for military planning, said Hewson, focused on “great power competition with China and Russia, and also the other players like Iran and North Korea.” The strategy, along with “bipartisan support for defense spending,” favored her company moving forward, Hewson said.

The statements to investors come as the US has openly threatened to launch a new war. In recent weeks, the Trump administration discussed sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East in preparation for war with Iran, a move that comes after two years of increasing sanctions and militant rhetoric about the threat posed by the government in Tehran.

The escalating tensions, while raising the potential for catastrophic conflict and loss of human life, could also be good for companies in the business of war.

The defense industry is far from an idle observer of the conflict. Major firms spend big sums on lobbying to influence the Pentagon’s budget — money that came primarily from Congress in the first place. The last National Defense Authorization Act includes several provisions on Iran, including a directive that US allies “build an interoperable ballistic missile defense architecture … to defend against the Islamic Republic of Iran missile threat” and that the secretary of defense develop a plan to counter the “destabilizing activities of Iran.”

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