Trump Administration May Push Through Arms Sales to Saudi

A burnt building at a power station in the Saudi city of Najran

A burnt building at a power station in the Saudi city of Najran

Earlier in the day, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez said in a press release that the Trump administration had invoked a provision in U.S. foreign arms sales legislation that would allow the White House to bypass Congress and sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior aides are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion.

Section 36 of the Arms Control Act gives the president authority to declare an emergency to expedite delivery of arms.

Robert Menendez blasted President Donald Trump on Friday after his administration said it would bypass congressional review for the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, accused in the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Under current law Congress faces two fundamental obstacles to block or modify a presidential sale of military equipment: "it must pass legislation expressing its will on the sale, and it must be capable of overriding a presumptive presidential veto of such legislation".

Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed to fight the action, and said he was in talks with both Democrats and some of Trump's fellow Republicans on ways to preserve congressional review of arms sales.

He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East".

"The lives of millions of people depend on it", Menendez said.

Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for an attack on an oil pipeline and the USA warned sailors in the Gulf of an increased threat form Iran or its allies after ships were sabotaged off the coast of the U.A.E.

Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, presidents are required to notify Congress of any pending arms sales, and if sales are meant for the Middle East, to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel's qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbours.

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a US -based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October. It states: "If the President states in his certification that an emergency exists which requires the immediate approval of the agreement in the national security interests of the United States, thus waiving the requirements of paragraph (4), he shall set forth in the certification a detailed justification for his determination, including a description of the emergency circumstances which necessitate the immediate approval of the agreement and a discussion of the national security interests involved". "The possible consequences of this will ultimately jeopardize the ability of the USA defense industry to export arms in a manner both expeditious and responsible".

In a statement, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen.

There is precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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