Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced plans to invoke national emergency powers to bypass Congress for almost two dozen arms deals with Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia. This Wednesday, as tension continues to swirl over the White House’s continued capitulation to the brutal Saudi dictatorship, the U.S. House voted to strike down three of the planned deals. The House vote followed a majority of the Republican-majority Senate banding together against every single one of the currently planned deals, which are feared to be only poised to increase the firepower of Saudi forces against Yemeni civilians and other innocent targets. The Trump White House doesn’t seem to care, and President Donald Trump seems ready to veto the block measures.
Still, the Democratic House majority and four Republicans (and newly independent Justin Amash) banded together this week against the deal plans. According to Democratic leadership, the House focused on the deals that would be most directly threatening to Yemeni civilians and would be shipped out the soonest. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) insisted:
‘I recognize that our partners face real threats from Iranian-backed Houthis, who are themselves guilty of serious human rights abuses. But that doesn’t mean we should just look the other way in the face of violence and slaughter of civilians perpetrated by our partners. It doesn’t mean we look the other way and let the president ride roughshod over Congress. So even if this administration will not stand up for the values, the Congress should. And the Congress will.’
The national security situation that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared centered on the supposedly growing threat from Iran, which is near the Saudis and they oppose. The Trump administration has consistently antagonized Iran all the way across the spectrum from reimposing tough sanctions to Trump personally threatening on Twitter to wipe the country off the face of the earth.
While this has raged, Congress has come together to counter the Trump team’s simultaneous embrace of Saudi Arabia, but they have seen few successes. Earlier this year, both chambers passed a resolution to cut off United States support for Saudi efforts in the nearby Yemeni civil war, but Trump vetoed that resolution — even as the evidence continues to pile up of U.S. weapons driving brutal deaths of innocent civilians.
Alongside this issue, there’s been wide-ranging concern of Trump’s seeming willful ignorance of the Saudi leadership’s role in the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At the recent G20 summit of world leaders, Trump bluntly lied that nobody had “pointed a finger” at their Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In fact, international investigators and authorities in the U.S. have concluded bin Salman was behind the killing.
In response, just this week the House approved a measure demanding that the Director of National Intelligence determines who is behind Khashoggi’s murder. In the Senate, there are at least two proposals on the table centering on hopes for a demanded “comprehensive review” of the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia. One of those would shut down all arms sales to the country.
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