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Congress Must Oppose the Saudi Arms Deal

Kudos to Sen. Rand Paul for his willingness to oppose the new arms deal with the Saudis:

Sen. Rand Paul will attempt to force a Senate vote on the $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia announced over the weekend by the Trump administration, according to Senate staff.

Part of the $110 billion is a deal that had already been made by the Obama administration, so that portion is probably not going to be blocked, but the bulk of it still could be. Because it is likely that at least some of the weapons being sold to the Saudis will used in the commission of war crimes and because the Saudi-led coalition has already committed many such crimes, there is a strong argument that the sale itself would be illegal:

Citing “multiple credible reports of recurring and highly questionable [air]strikes’’ by the Saudi military that have killed civilians, the U.S. “cannot continue to rely on Saudi assurances that it will comply with international law and agreements concerning the use of U.S.-origin equipment,” Michael Newton, a prominent Vanderbilt University law professor and former military judge advocate general, said.

Newton, in his 23-page opinion, said the strikes have continued “even after Saudi units received training and equipment to reduce civilian casualties.”

“Continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia ― and specifically of arms used in airstrikes ― should not be presumed to be permissible” under the two statutes covering most sales of military equipment by the U.S government to foreign nations [bold mine-DL], he said.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin recently wrote about the famine being caused by the coalition’s intervention and addressed the need for Congress to step in:

If Trump’s deal with the Saudis ignores the suffering of millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation, I can assure you that members of Congress will act swiftly, using every tool at our disposal — from blocking weapons shipments to forcing a debate and vote on U.S. military involvement in Yemen — to end this incomprehensible tragedy.

There is no hint that the administration has put any pressure on the Saudis regarding their war on Yemen, and there is no reason to expect that they will. During his Riyadh speech Trump applauded the coalition’s “strong action” in attacking the country, and he has consistently shown no understanding of the war or its consequences. Insofar as he thinks he understands what’s going on, he has just been echoing pro-Saudi talking points. So it falls to Congress to try to rein in U.S. support for the atrocious war on Yemen. Failure to do so will further deepen U.S. complicity in wrecking and starving Yemen.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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