WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Tuesday turned back a bipartisan bid to reject President Donald Trump’s plan to sell the Kingdom more than $500 million in precision-guided munitions.
The vote Tuesday was 53-47, clearing the way for the sale to be finalized. The precision munitions are part of Trump’s proposed $110 billion arms package to Riyadh, which the administration said would create US jobs while also improving a key ally’s military capability.
Senators Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, proposed to block the sale, saying they feared the sophisticated weapons could be used in the conflict against Yemeni civilians.
Murphy and Paul were the same authors of a move to stop President Barack Obama in pursuing the sale of more than $1 billion worth of American-made tanks and other weapons to Saudi Arabia. The move was also soundly defeated last September.
Containing Daesh and Iran
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and other senators supporting the sale said the United States can’t deny its Middle East allies the weapons they need to combat Daesh extremists and check Iran’s aggression in the region.
The war in Yemen is pitting the country’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who are allied with army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said rejecting the sale of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia would be a victory for Iran.
“If you don’t think containing Iran and keeping them from toppling Yemen, Iraq, Syria (and) Lebanon is not in our national interest, you’re making a huge mistake,” he said.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that at least a portion of the votes to block the munitions sale came from senators who wanted to embarrass Trump.
“I’m afraid this vote is somewhat about some members wanting to get a piece of President Trump’s hide,” Corker said.
Trump’s decision to move ahead with the sale appeared to reverse an Obama administration decision to hold sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia’s armed forces .