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