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June 16, 2019
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US sets to sell $8bn weapons to Saudi Arabia, UAE despite Congress’ opposition

Despite the opposition of congressional committees, Trump administration is going to sell Saudi Arabia and UAE over $8 billion worth of weapons.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it is going ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. The move has infuriated lawmakers as it circumvents a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Angered by civilians deaths in Saudi-led coalition campaign in Yemen and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for months.

Lawmakers and congressional aides warned earlier this week that Trump, frustrated with Congress holding up weapons deals including the sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia, was considering using a loophole in arms control law to go ahead by declaring a national emergency.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove … There is no new ‘emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

Murphy, a Democrat, made public on Twitter on Wednesday that Trump was considering the loophole in the Arms Control Export Act to clear the sales.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration’s action was “unfortunate” and likely to damage future White House interactions with Congress.

“I would have strongly preferred for the administration to utilize the long-established and codified arms sale review process,” McCaul said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that U.S. partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”