Paul, Gra­ham find com­mon ground on Saudi Ara­bia

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY LES­LEY CLARK AND EMMA DUMAIN [email protected]­ edu­[email protected]­ WASHNGTON

Lind­sey Gra­ham laugh­ingly says his sud­den em­brace of Rand Paul is a sign of what the Bi­ble calls “end times.” Rand Paul jokes that their mind meld first needed cou­ples’ coun­sel­ing.

Long at odds when it comes to for­eign pol­icy, the South Car­olina and Ken­tucky Repub­li­cans have dis­cov­ered rare com­mon ground: Fury over the role of Saudi Ara­bia’s crown prince in the death of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi and frus­tra­tion with the

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sup­port for the king­dom.

The White House al­lies rep­re­sent the hawk­ish and non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist poles of the Repub­li­can Party. Just this sum­mer Paul said Gra­ham was “a dan­ger” for leav­ing the door open to po­ten­tial use of mil­i­tary force against North Korea. Gra­ham shot back, “There is no threat to Amer­ica that Se­na­tor Paul will not re­treat from.”

But as a Repub­li­can-led Se­nate gen­er­ally re­luc­tant to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pre­pares for a spir­ited de­bate over the next few days over how to deal with Saudi Ara­bia, Gra­ham and Paul vividly il­lus­trate the cham­ber’s ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­con­tent with Trump’s de­ci­sion to side with the king­dom.

A Se­nate vote come come as soon as this week to con­demn the Saudi gov­ern­ment for a va­ri­ety of al­leged malfea­sance, from its in­volve­ment in Ye­men to its role in Khashoggi’s death.

“It’s a sign that this pres­i­dent’s for­eign pol­icy has gone badly askew when Rand Paul and Lind­sey Gra­ham are gen­er­ally in agree­ment,” said Sen. Chris Mur­phy, Dcon­necti­cut, who serves with Paul on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee and has been meeting with Gra­ham to dis­cuss leg­isla­tive strate­gies for pun­ish­ing Saudi Ara­bia.

Paul and Gra­ham’s part­ner­ship could help set the tone as the Se­nate looks to up­braid the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Law­mak­ers could vote on at least one of three pro­pos­als to reg­is­ter con­gres­sional dis­plea­sure with the Saudi gov­ern­ment.

It’s ex­pected that one pro­posal will be a Gra­ham-spon­sored non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion ex­press­ing a sense of the Se­nate that Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man helped or­ches­trate the jour­nal­ist’s mur­der on Oct. 2 in­side the Saudi Con­sulate in Istanbul.

Sen. Bob Corker, Rten­nessee, the re­tir­ing For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man who said he be­lieves a U.S. jury would ren­der a guilty ver­dict on bin Sal­man “in 30 min­utes,” said Gra­ham’s res­o­lu­tion or a ver­sion of it is ex­pected to pass over­whelm­ingly, re­gard­less of whether Gra­ham and Paul throw their weight be­hind it.

Trump has seem­ingly dis­re­garded CIA re­ports of the strong prob­a­bil­ity that the crown prince was be­hind Khashoggi’s bru­tal dis­mem­ber­ment and has warned against dis­rupt­ing a part­ner­ship that has re­sulted in Amer­i­can jobs from Saudi arm sales.

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said in a state­ment re­gard­ing whether bin Sal­man bore re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It’s pos­si­ble sen­a­tors end up send­ing a mea­sure to the pres­i­dent’s desk that would block U.S. arm sales to Saudi Ara­bia in re­tal­i­a­tion against the king­dom’s ac­tions. There could also be a vote on leg­is­la­tion to end U.S. mil­i­tary sup­port for the Saudi-led war in Ye­men, though that bill is un­likely to pass.

Paul pointed out that he and Gra­ham also share a his­tory of break­ing from the pres­i­dent.

Lind­sey Gra­ham

Rand Paul

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