The US Senate is set to vote on Thursday on resolutions of disapproval that could block an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and some of her allies.
Last month Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the arms deal and also declared a national security emergency allowing the Trump administration to bypass the usual congressional approval process. Pompeo and others in the administration believe Iran, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia, to be a considerable threat the US and her allies including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
However, neither the deal, nor the move to sidestep congressional approval, is looked on favorably by most members of the Senate and the House, and many have do not believe it to be a sound decision at this time.
While Saudi Arabia has long been an ally of the US, many members of Congress agree that aiding her and giving her weapons of mass destruction will not eliminate the growing tensions with Iran but only make matters worse.
This comes after recent events in which high-profile members of Saudi Arabia’s government, including the Crown Prince, have been tied to human rights violations, such as the murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. It is believed that the Crown Prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi by Saudi operatives.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina says, “Now is not the time to be doing business as usual with Saudi Arabia.” Graham is typically a devout Trump ally, but as with many of the lawmakers, this deal has him nervous.
Saudi Arabia is also responsible for a recent bombing campaign in Yemen that left thousands of civilians dead and has since created a humanitarian disaster, as living victims now deal with famine and a cholera outbreak.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut says, “Selling more bombs to the Saudis simply means that the famine and cholera outbreak in Yemen will get worse, Iran will get stronger, and Al Qaeda and ISIS will continue to flourish amidst the chaos of the civil war.”
Some would say that it is not a coincidence that Thursday, the day the vote will take place, also happens to be the day that the UK announced it to be illegal for British-made weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says, “The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms.” He added, “the bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK arms companies have profited every step of the way, …the arms sales must stop immediately.”
For Trump’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia to be blocked, 22 resolutions of disapproval must be passed in the Senate. However, it is expected that the president will try to veto the passing of them. In that case, both the House and the Senate will have to approve of the resolutions with a two-thirds supermajority to have enough power to overturn a such a veto from President Trump.