Published: Sat, May 25, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Trump to bypass Congress to sell arms to Saudi, UAE: senator

Trump to bypass Congress to sell arms to Saudi, UAE: senator

Pompeo notified Congress of the decision to use an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Congressional sources said Friday's order included all the defense equipment that members of Congress had been blocking.

But the administration informed lawmakers that it was going around a legally required review by Congress to approve the sales as part of a total of 22 arms transactions to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other nations, Menendez's office said.

In each of his letters notifying lawmakers of the decision, Pompeo stated that he had "determined that an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States and thus, waives the congressional review requirements" - without noting the nature of the emergency or offering details about it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally told lawmakers Friday of the administration's plans.

Tensions between Iran and the USA mounted this month, a year after Trump pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump last month vetoed Congress resolution to end US involvement in the Yemen War.

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a USA -based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the administration's move "unfortunate" in a statement. Pompeo noted in his statement that "today's action will quickly augment our partners' capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to U.S. posture in the region to deter Iran". "There is no new "emergency" reason to sell bombs to the Saudis".

It's "a loophole that would allow any President to claim any number of Middle East crises as an "emergency" and then Congress will never ever be able to object to an arms sale again", he said on Twitter.

"I am deeply concerned about the rumors that the Administration plans to bypass Congress and sell weapons to foreign governments, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, one of the worst human rights abusers in the world", said Menendez of New Jersey.

He noted that the provision has been used by at least four previous administrations since 1979, and said "this specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress".

USA lawmakers had blocked about $2 billion in arms sales to the kingdom for more than a year.

Carolyn Miles, president of relief group Save the Children, said that while all sides are at fault, "arms sales to the Saudi/Emirati coalition will increase the suffering of starving children in Yemen".

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, also declined to comment. "When will the legislative branch stand up to the executive branch?"

Democrats are also questioning whether Trump invoked the proper emergency authority under the Arms Export Control Act, pointing out that deals with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries and allies such as Australia are treated as legally distinct from deals with nations such Saudi Arabia and arguing Pompeo's letters conflate them.

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