US senators have rejected a resolution to block a weapons deal worth $1.15 billion (1.03 billion euros) to Saudi Arabia. Lawmakers are increasingly concerned about how the kingdom is flexing its military muscles.
“I think it’s important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell said Tuesday.
Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the US can’t deny weapons that its allies need to fight the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS) group.
“Blocking this sale of tanks will be interpreted by our Gulf partners, not just Saudi Arabia, as another sign that the United States of America is abandoning our commitment to the region and is unreliable security partner, “Cain said.
Deal can proceed
The deal, worth $1.15 billion, includes the sale of more than 100 main battle tanks, machine guns, smoke grenade launchers, night-vision devices, vehicles to recover damaged tanks from the battlefield, and thousands of rounds of training ammunition.
Deal ‘could destabilize region’
Critics of the arms deal say Saudi warplanes have bombed areas that Washington has asked them to avoid, while IS and al-Qaeda continue to expand in the war-savaged country.
Last week, the American Bar Association said there are credible reports Saudi forces have used American-made military equipment to carry out “indiscriminate and disproportionate” attacks on civilians. It called for the immediate suspension of security assistance to Riyadh’s forces.
Despite the block failing, Senators said the debate proved that arms sales to even longtime allies isn’t automatic, and called for Congress to play a larger role in foreign policy decisions.
Wednesday’s decision comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to veto a separate piece of legislation that allows survivors and victims’ families of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. That decision is expected in the coming days.
Saudi officials, and even the EU, have called on the US to scrap the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
The Senate and House of Representatives each have the ability to override Obama’s veto by a two-thirds vote.
mm/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)