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US Senate fails to block sale of $8.1 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia

Trump issued a trio of veteos to attempt to push through the sale.

Trump speaking yesterday.
Trump speaking yesterday.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

THE US SENATE has failed to prevent the controversial sale of $8.1 billion (€7.27 billion) in weapons to Saudi Arabia, after President Donald Trump vetoed congressional resolutions blocking the deal.

Despite bipartisan votes this month, efforts to override Trump’s of his veto powers since taking office fell well short.

Trump issued a trio of veteos to attempt to push through the sale. Votes to override the vetoes failed, 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41. A two-thirds vote was needed in each case.

In attempting to block the sale, senators were also protesting against the kingdom over Riyadh’s role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Trump sought approval for 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons and equipment to countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Critics said the arms sales would aggravate the devastating war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a US-backed coalition in a battle against the Iranian-supported Huthi rebels, and which the UN said has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Trump’s administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sale in May, as his administration declared Iran to be a “fundamental threat” to the stability of the Middle East.

Senate Democrat Ben Cardin said that by not blocking the sales, Republicans “abdicated their constitutionally mandated responsibilities” to conduct oversight.

“We have both a legal and moral obligation to make certain that US weapons are not used to repress human rights or perpetrate violence against innocent civilians,” Cardin said.

Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed to a Saudi artillery attack early yesterday in northern Yemen that medics said killed 13 civilians, including two children.

Report 

The Senate votes came as the House Oversight Committee released a report criticising the Trump administration over its apparent willingness to allow the president’s friends and allies undue influence over U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia.

New documents obtained by the committee “raise serious questions about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the president’s friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons,” the report said.

The report “exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s Democratic chairman.

© AFP 2019  with reporting from Associated Press

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