The Obama Administration agreed to major sale of weapons, ammunition and equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a few days ago. Now lawmakers are looking to block the move.The sale, which includes up to 153 tanks, would be worth around 1.15 billion dollars. The timing coincided with the first Saudi airstrikes in three months in Sanaa. The attacks killed at least 14 people and come after stalled United Nations negotiations.
Weapons of War
The Saudis complete a major coalition of Middle East Sunni states which have intervened in Yemen on behalf of the beleaguered Hadi government. They fight the Shia Muslim Houthis, who captured the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in March of 2015.The coalition consists of multiple Arabian Gulf kingdoms along with Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan.The arms deal would send M1A1 Tanks, .50 caliber machine guns, 7.62mm machine guns, smoke grenade launchers, armored vehicles and other hardware to the Kingdom.In 2010, Saudi Arabia received permission to buy $60 billion in advanced planes and air-defense missiles, along with further contracts for high-tech military ships and smart bombs.
Blocking the Sale
The law gives Congress 30 days to block the move, although experts say it is “unlikely” to do so.Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, thinks otherwise: “Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record,” he said to US News and World Report in an emailed statement. “We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East.”The Senator said he would look to explore a vote on the sale.The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the sale “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States,” in its announcement of the sale.
The United States and Saudi Arabia trace their alliance back to World War II, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met King Abdulaziz bin Saud aboard the USS Murphy in Egypt in 1945. Although Saudi Arabia remained neutral during the war, the country allowed the United States to use its airspace.The relationship survived even the oil embargo of 1973, when OPEC refused to export to the United States in retaliation for its support of Israel during the Arabi-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia later relented after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Nixon negotiated with OPEC countries to release the embargo.Saudi Arabia plays a key role in the Middle East as the United States’ main ally in the region. In 1991, the United States sent half a million troops to Saudi Arabia in preparation for Operation Desert Storm, which resulted in the freeing of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.The State Department reports that the Kingdom maintains a “robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States” and is a “top destination for U.S. arms.”