The U.S. Should Halt Arms Sales to the Saudi-Led Coalition
The Qatar crisis continues to create friction inside the Trump administration:
Tensions between the White House and the State Department over how to approach the ongoing dispute between the United States’ Gulf allies are reaching a boiling point, due to what the White House sees as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s stalling of large arms-sales packages President Trump agreed to in May.
It is understandable that Tillerson wants to use arms sales as leverage in an attempt to pressure the Saudi-led bloc to compromise with Qatar. Trump is reportedly annoyed with this because it is interfering with the deals that he made, but then it was his green light to the Saudis that helped create the crisis in the first place. If Tillerson isn’t getting anywhere with the Saudi-led bloc, that is at least partly because Trump has repeatedly signaled that he is on the side of the bloc and approves of what they’re doing. Trump’s opposition to delays in the arms sales gives the members of the bloc another reason to assume that they can ignore any pressure coming from Tillerson. The misguided embrace of reckless clients and the administration’s foreign policy dysfunction are combining to make the U.S. completely ineffective in resolving the dispute.
We can see in this story that Washington is more than capable of stopping arms sales to Gulf states when it wants to, and clearly both Tillerson and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker think that the U.S. can and should use these sales as leverage to change the behavior of the Saudis and other Gulf states some of the time. That makes their failure to halt arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition because of its conduct in Yemen all the more damning and inexcusable. Compared to what the coalition has done to Yemen with U.S. help, the treatment of Qatar has been nothing, but whenever there is a proposal to cut off the support that enables war crimes and humanitarian disaster many of the same people that are prepared to penalize the Saudis and UAE over Qatar are opposed to it even though it might save lives.