Nar­rowly, Se­nate passes Saudi arms agree­ment

Last year, Democrats sup­ported tank deal

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Sen­a­tors nar­rowly avoided a se­ri­ous for­eign pol­icy re­buke to Pres­i­dent Trump on Tues­day, re­ject­ing an ef­fort to can­cel his sale of pre­ci­sion-guid­ance sys­tems to Saudi Ara­bia to make that Mid­dle East na­tion’s mis­siles more ac­cu­rate.

While op­po­nents said they were try­ing to send a mes­sage to the Saudi gov­ern­ment, the ef­fort had a se­vere ve­neer of par­ti­san pol­i­tics. Many Democrats who just last year voted to back a tank deal ne­go­ti­ated by Pres­i­dent Obama voted against Mr. Trump’s deal.

In the end, just a hand­ful of Democrats joined most Repub­li­cans in back­ing Mr. Trump, re­sult­ing in a 53-47 vote of ap­proval for his deal to pro­ceed.

Se­nior Repub­li­cans had pleaded with col­leagues to stay the course, say­ing Saudi Ara­bia is a flawed but com­mit­ted re­gional ally, and pun­ish­ing them would only ben­e­fit their re­gional ri­val Iran. The two coun­tries are en­gaged in a proxy war.

“If you’re se­ri­ous about stand­ing up to Iran, stand with Saudi Ara­bia, as im­per­fect as they are,” said Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina Re­pub­li­can.

Op­po­nents of the deal, though, said Saudi Ara­bia is an in­con­stant and wor­ri­some ally.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can who led op­po­si­tion to the deal, pointed to spec­u­la­tion that Saudi of­fi­cials may have had knowl­edge of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks and may have helped arm the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants. He also ticked off a long list of civil rights vi­o­la­tions against women and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties in the coun­try.

“This bar­baric na­tion should not be get­ting our weapons,” he said.

The leg­is­la­tion would have pre­vented trans­fer of hard­ware and tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion to help arm jet fight­ers and guided mis­siles.

Mr. Paul had also been an op­po­nent of Mr. Obama’s tank deal, mak­ing him con­sis­tent in his op­po­si­tion.

But a num­ber of Democrats who backed Mr. Obama op­posed Mr. Trump now, leav­ing Repub­li­cans to ques­tion their mo­tives.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, said the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Ye­men — site of the proxy war — has wors­ened, and he feared sell­ing the com­po­nents to help im­prove Saudi mis­sile per­for­mance would make “fur­ther ex­ac­er­bate the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.”

“The sale of these weapons could en­cour­age fur­ther bad be­hav­ior,” Mr. Schumer said.

He also blamed the Saudi state for spawn­ing the rad­i­cal phi­los­o­phy that has spurred the new spate of at­tacks in re­cent years.

“It’s got to end,” he said. “My vote for this res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval hope­fully can send a mes­sage to the Saudis that their be­hav­ior, in re­gard to Wah­habism, must change. It’s hurt­ing the world and will even­tu­ally hurt them.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.