U.S. Se­na­tor to halt arms sales to Saudi-led states un­til Qatar dis­pute re­solved

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An in­flu­en­tial United States Con­gress­man has said he would try to stop the U.S. arms sales to the Per­sian Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (PGCC) un­til sev­eral re­gional Arab states in­volved in a dis­pute with Qatar re­solve their dif­fer­ences with Doha.

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Bob Corker, the chair­man of the U.S. Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, made the re­mark.

The PGCC groups the House of Saud regime, Kuwait, the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Three of those coun­tries, plus Egypt, have sev­ered diplo­matic ties and cut all land, sea, and air con­tacts with Qatar. The four ac­cused Qatar of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism, an al­le­ga­tion de­nied by Doha.

“All coun­tries in the re­gion need to do more to com­bat ter­ror­ism, but re­cent dis­putes among the PGCC coun­tries only serve to hurt ef­forts to fight ISIL (Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant/Daesh) and counter Iran,” Corker, who is known for his anti-Iran stances, wrote in a let­ter to U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

Corker is on a con­gres­sional group that re­views arms deals be­fore they can go ahead.

An aide to the Repub­li­can se­na­tor, how­ever, said his push would not af­fect the sales that had al­ready been re­viewed by Congress or non-lethal as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing train­ing. The Congress has also al­ready lent its bless­ing to the sale of $350 bil­lion in pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions and other of­fen­sive weapons to the Saudi regime. The sum in­cludes $110 bil­lion in weapons that U.S. President Don­ald Trump agreed to sell to the king­dom dur­ing a visit to Riyadh in May. The diplo­matic rup­ture has been deemed an out­come of that trip, which an­a­lysts say Saudi Ara­bia took to be a sign of un­con­di­tional U.S. sup­port for a more ag­gres­sive for­eign pol­icy. For­mer U.S. President Barack Obama had with­held the sale of cer­tain weapons that Trump ap­proved for sale to Riyadh.

The U.S. has sent mixed sig­nals re­gard­ing the dis­pute among the Arab states. While Trump him­self has taken sides with the Saudi regime-led coun­tries, Tiller­son and other state of­fi­cials have at­tempted to sound less di­rect, urg­ing dia­log.

Some U.S. of­fi­cials have even seemed to con­tra­dict Trump. U.S. State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert re­cently cast doubt on the de­clared mo­tives of the Saudi regime-led bloc of coun­tries that have boy­cotted Qatar.

The U.S. has a mil­i­tary base in Qatar, its largest in the Mid­dle East.

Qatar says its neigh­bors have at­tempted to pun­ish it merely for its re­fusal to toe their line on mat­ters of for­eign pol­icy.

Dur­ing his trip to Saudi Ara­bia, Trump took part in a PGCC sum­mit in which he called for Iran to be iso­lated.

A fi­nal state­ment of the sum­mit in­cluded some anti-Iran ar­ti­cles.

Se­na­tor Corker said, “Un­for­tu­nately, the PGCC did not take ad­van­tage of the sum­mit and in­stead chose to de­volve into con­flict.”

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