US House votes to block Saudi arms deals




The US House of Representatives on Thursday voted in favor of three resolutions to ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Nearly a month after the Senate passed 22 resolutions disapproving of Trump’s $8.1 billion arms sale plan despite congressional objections.

The House passed two of the resolutions with 238 votes, while a third was approved with 237 votes.

In May, Trump citied what he called new threats from Iran to use an “emergency” loophole in the US arms control law to bypass Congress and complete the sale of more than $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The Arms Export Control Act gives Congress the power to review major weapons sales.

The three resolutions impede the sale of Raytheon-produced guided ammunition and related equipment to the Two States.

House aides said House Democratic leaders preferred to start these three resolutions before others because ammunition for targeted weapons could be delivered faster, as some lawmakers also suspect that this type of munition was used against civilians in Yemen.

Although the House of Representatives agreed to halt arms sales by a large majority, the resolution needed an additional 50 votes to get the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto.

Trump is seeking to conduct 22 separate deals with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, including the maintenance of aircraft, ammunition, and more, at a time of heightened tension in the Middle East.

Opponents of such cooperation argue that these arms deals will fuel the devastating war in Yemen, which has caused the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

According to William Hartung, the director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, the commercial data shows the US role in Yemen is “dramatically understated.”

That is because commercial sales are “so rarely discussed, compared to big glitzy deals like the fighter planes,” said Hartung whose progressive think tank in Washington houses SAM.

The Trump administration has in the past criticized Democrats in Congress for blocking the planned sales.

Currently, there are several bill making their way through Congress with Saudi-related provisions and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to vote on two such bills next Tuesday.

Deals made soon after Saudi attacks using US weapons included a bomb on August 9, 2018 which hit a school bus in northern Yemen carrying boys on a field trip, killing 54 people, Middle East Eye reported.

Another Saudi bombing of a wedding northwest of the Yemeni capital Sana’a on April 22, 2018 reportedly killed 33 people, including the bride. Days later, it was proved that US firm Raytheon had made part of a bomb found at the scene of the attack.

“When a country uses U.S.-origin weapons for other than legitimate self-defense purposes, the administration must suspend further sales, unless it issues a certification to Congress that there’s an overwhelming national security need,” says Brittany Benowitz, a former defense adviser for former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). “The Trump administration has not done that.”

In March 2015, the US -backed –Saudi-led coalition started  a war against Yemen with the declared aim of crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement, who had taken over from the staunch Riyadh ally and fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, while also seeking to secure the Saudi border with its southern neighbor. Three years and over 600,000 dead and injured Yemeni people and  prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, the war has yielded little to that effect.

Despite the coalition claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

More than 2,200 others have died of cholera, and the crisis has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

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