US senators approve Trump's weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, despite concerns for Yemen civilians

US senators approve Trump's weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, despite concerns for Yemen civilians
“Saudi Arabia is not a reliable ally", said Senator Paul Rand, who is a vocal opponent of selling arms to the kingdom
2 min read
14 June, 2017
US President Donald Trump being awarded by Saudi King Salman [AFP]

The Senate on Tuesday narrowly turned back a bipartisan bid to rebuke Saudi Arabia and reject President Donald Trump’s plan to sell the kingdom more than $500 million in precision-guided munitions, sparing the new Republican administration an embarrassing defeat.

The vote Tuesday was 53-47, clearing the way for the sale to be finalised. 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.

'Saudi Arabia not a reliable ally'

But opponents of the deal, led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have been sharply critical of Riyadh’s role in Yemen’s civil war and the kingdom’s human rights abuses. They said they feared the sophisticated weapons could be used in the conflict against Yemeni civilians.

Despite coming up short, Murphy declared a partial victory as the resolution of disapproval secured 20 more votes than did a similar measure he and Paul authored in September to stop the sale of more than $1 billion worth of American-made tanks and other weapons to Saudi Arabia.

“Today’s vote total would’ve been unthinkable not long ago, but Congress is finally taking notice that Saudi Arabia is using US munitions to deliberately hit civilian targets inside Yemen,” Murphy said.

Paul, who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination as a leader of the party’s non-interventionist wing, sharply criticized Saudi Arabia during remarks on the Senate floor.

He called Riyadh the “No. 1 exporter of Jihadist philosophy” and said the munitions sale threatens the lives of innocent Yemenis.

“I am embarrassed that people would bring up trying to feather the nests of corporations in order to sell these weapons,” Paul said. “Saudi Arabia is not a reliable ally.”