US Senate to vote on blocking Trump’s $8bn arms sales to Saudi, UAE over rights abuses
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US Senate to vote on blocking Trump’s $8bn arms sales to Saudi, UAE over rights abuses

The White House announced last month that it was making an emergency provision within the country’s arms control law to enable the major arms sale to America’s two main allies in the Persian Gulf region. The Trump administration had cited “alleged threats from Iran” to justify resorting to the emergency provision. However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made it clear they want Washington to take a harder line against what the human rights abuses by the two countries. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the vote on Wednesday, after opposing lawmakers filed 22 separate resolutions of disapproval against the deals. Lawmakers were confident that the measures would pass both the Senate and House of Representatives but they may fail to garner the two-thirds majority support needed to override a possible veto by Trump. The bipartisan support for the deals is considered a serious rebuke to Trump specially since many of his close Republican allies, who generally have provided overwhelming support for his policies, are among the opposition this time. The US Congress has grown increasingly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over their devastating war against Yemen, which has killed thousands of people and caused a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country. Many US lawmakers have also called on the Turmp administration to hold Saudi rulers, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, accountable for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last October. A UN rights expert said Wednesday that bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials should be investigated over the gruesome murder of the US-based Washington Post columnist. Trump has pushed back against efforts to halt the weapons sales, arguing that Washington needs Saudis and Emiratis as important strategic partners against Iran. However, even Republicans who had in the past opposed legislation to end US involvement in the Yemen conflict -- which passed Congress but was vetoed by Trump – think Washington needs to send a strong message to Riyadh. “I don’t think there’s anyone on this (Senate) floor that is averse to the idea that action needs to be taken,” said Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said lawmakers were also preparing legislation “to hold Saudi Arabia accountable” for human rights abuses and Khashoggi’s murder. He said committee members were also considering legislation that would take away the ability of Trump, or any US president, to use emergency authority to sell arms to any country besides NATO members and certain other key partners.

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