Saudi Arms Sales to Counter Iran Aggression to Go Ahead After Senate Sustains Trump Veto

July 29, 2019 Updated: July 31, 2019

President Donald Trump’s recent vetoes have held up after votes in the U.S. Senate on July 29 showed the Senate majority will now allow the administration to move forward with plans to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate was needed to override the vetoes. But on July 29, votes tallied at 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41, siding with Trump’s vetoes.

A trio of congressional resolutions were introduced by Sen. Bob Menedez (D-N.J.) on June 5 that sought to block the licensing for certain arms sales in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy. The resolutions had passed the Senate on June 20, and subsequently the House on July 17.

This came as the U.S. State Department announced on May 24 a plan to sell $8.1 billion worth of arms to its Middle East allies to counter aggression by Iran.

The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support. The arms sales were approved after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited threats from Iran and declared a national emergency.

“Delaying this shipment could cause degraded systems and a lack of necessary parts and maintenance that could create severe airworthiness and interoperability concerns for our key partners, during a time of increasing regional volatility,” Pompeo said at the time.

On July 24, Trump vetoed the three resolutions that Menedez had introduced.

“Apart from negatively affecting our bilateral relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy, the joint resolution would hamper the ability of the United States to sustain and shape critical security cooperation activities,” Trump said in a statement on July 24.

Trump called each of the three resolutions “ill-conceived and time-consuming,” and said they failed to address the root causes of conflict in Yemen. He also said the resolutions would “weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners.”

“The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end. But we cannot end it through ill-conceived and time-consuming resolutions that fail to address its root causes,” Trump said.

“Rather than expend time and resources on such resolutions, I encourage Congress to direct its efforts toward supporting our work to achieve peace through a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Yemen.”

The White House had earlier said that stopping the arms sales “would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have recently executed several attacks on Saudi Arabia, including the launch of a ballistic missile that struck a civilian airport in early July.

The views of several congress members toward the U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance worsened after the murder of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year by agents of Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi was an advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist group by Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Russia.

The Trump administration ultimately sanctioned the individual perpetrators of the murder, and maintained and defended the United States’ alliance with Saudi Arabia. Pompeo has called the kingdom a “powerful force for stability in an otherwise fraught Middle East.”

Menendez had earlier said that he opposed the arms sale due to the conflict in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and left millions more on the brink of starvation. He called the humanitarian situation “an incomprehensible moral tragedy.”

Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy
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