Sen. Paul pushes bill to block US arms sale to Saudi Arabia
US Senator Rand Paul has railed against President Donald Trump’s $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom’s ongoing war crimes in Yemen as well as its dismal record on human rights.
“How bad is it in Yemen? 17 million people live on the edge of starvation,” the Kentucky Republican said on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
“What are people saying about it?” Paul asked. “They say that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen may be worse than Syria. Let me repeat that because nobody in America is listening to this. Everybody is paying attention to some silly show trials, silly stuff going on in committees. Nobody is talking about this at all.”
“They say it is worse than Syria. Millions of people have fled Syria, hundreds of thousands have died, and people are now predicting Yemen may be worse,” he added.
During his first trip to Saudi Arabia last month, Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis, with options to sell up to $350 billion over 10 years.
Facilitated by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the massive package includes American missiles, bombs, armored personnel carriers, Littoral Combat Ships, terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missile systems and munitions.
The deal angered a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Paul who is pushing for a measure to block at least parts of the package.
Democratic leaders in the Senate are throwing their weight behind Paul’s effort to block, among other items, the sale of $510 million of precision-guided munitions to the Saudi regime.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he was supporting the resolution that Paul has introduced along with Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Al Franken.
“I will support Senator Murphy’s resolution of disapproval,” Schumer said in a statement.
“The human rights and humanitarian concerns have been well documented and are important: of equal concern to me is that the Saudi government continues to aid and abet terrorism via its relationship with Wahhabism and the funding of schools that spread extremist propaganda throughout the world,” he added.
Senators backing the measure argue that the weapons sale would make Washington complicit in the Saudi war crimes in Yemen. The bill seeks to make future arms sales contingent on reining in the Saudi military aggression in Yemen.
The military assault has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians. The US has provided intelligence and logistical support to the Saudis.
“Think about that. It is astounding what is going on there, and it is being done without your permission, but with your weapons,” Sen. Paul said.
“So today I will force a vote with Senator Murphy’s help, who has been a prime mover in this, to tell you the truth, and done a great job in bringing people together,” he added. “
“But we will force this vote for these children in Yemen, because we have a chance today to stop the carnage,” the senator said. “We have a chance to tell Saudi Arabia we’ve had enough.”
Paul also raised questions over the US foreign assistance to Saudi Arabia, which he called the chief exporter of extremist ideology and “the number one exporter of ‘Let’s hate America.”
Besides the ongoing Saudi atrocities in Yemen, Paul also pointed to the kingdom’s violations of human rights within its borders.
“I don’t think we should sell them to Saudi Arabia, if they punish people for protest, if they punish people for speaking out by beheading them and crucifying them. I am not for selling them a rifle, much less precision-guided missiles,” he said.
Rights groups have expressed dismay over Saudi Arabia’s dismal rights record, its treatment of the kingdom’s minority Shia population and its military support for Bahrain’s crackdown on dissent.