Congress Acts to Block Saudi Tank Sales After Innocent Civilians Killed

Congress Acts to Block Saudi Tank Sales After Innocent Civilians Killed

Congress and Senate want to block U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia

The U.S. House and Senate have taken major steps toward the blockage and limit of U.S. arms sales to its Middle Eastern ally, Saudi Arabia.

After the Saudi kingdom led a series of airstrikes which allegedly killed and wounded hundreds of civilians in the Yemen conflict (where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition in support of forces loyal to the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi), members of both the House and Senate introduced legislation that seeks to block a $1.15 billion arms sale of tanks.

The proposal, presented on Tuesday by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), came around a week after the idea was presented in the Senate by Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) and Democrats Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Al Franken (Minn.), and reflects a growing concern over how U.S. weapons are being used in armed conflicts. As reported by The Washington Post, Rep. Lieu said:

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen is bombing innocent civilians in Yemen. When hospitals and schools become military targets, this is cause for serious concern, not just for our national security but also for our moral standing around the world. The United States of America should not be aiding and abetting these atrocities and should immediately halt any activity to sell additional arms to the Saudis.”  

Since the beginning of this month, Senator Rand Paul raised the issue of erroneous weapon use escalating violence and blocking the road to peace, and stated that:

“Selling $1.15 billion in tanks, guns, ammunition, and more to a country with a poor human rights record embroiled in a bitter war is a recipe for disaster and an escalation of an ongoing arms race in the region.”

64 members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter to President Obama asking that the $1.15 billion deal be delayed. This after the Pentagon had announced a sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia. Since then, Scott Paul, a senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America, said in a statement (according to Reuters):

“Congress’ silence would signal to the Yemeni people that U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is unconditional – no matter how cruel the parties’ methods of warfare or how unwilling they are to make peace.”

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy also argued that supporting the Saudi actions in Yemen damage and endanger U.S. securityAs he stated:

“If we are helping to radicalize Yemenis against us, we are participating in the slaughter of civilians, and we are allowing extremist groups that have plans and plots against the United States to grow stronger, how can that be in our security interest?”

The sale is most likely to go through, considering it has been accepted by the White House and inside Congress. There has been tough opposition to the proposal, such as that coming from the Senate’s Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell:

“it’s important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible, and I hope we’ll defeat the resolution of disapproval of the arms sale.” 

This is something similar to the new military package the U.S. gave to Israel a few days ago of $38 billion; a very controversial action considering the well known use and abuse by Israel of weapons and armed force against Palestinians in favour of the continuous Israeli occupation. Will the Obama administration leave office with truly clean hands, or will it just cover them with gloves?

Featured image via Scott Nelson/Getty Images News.

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From Mexico City, Carolina has lived in five different countries, experiences she defines as the most enriching. She has focused her studies and work on international conflicts and international security issues, diplomacy and protocol. Carolina holds two MA degrees and hopes to begin her PhD studies soon.