A bipartisan group of senators, irritated with Donald Trump's pro-Saudi policies, introduced legislation Wednesday that could dramatically overhaul U.S.-Saudi ties. The move came after the U.S. President Trump's recent decision to bypass Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch was joined by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic senators Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Coons in sponsoring the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act of 2019. In addition to initiating a sweeping and strategic review of bilateral relations, the bill would revoke or deny visas for members of the Saudi royal family that serve in executive posts. It would further address in a yet-unspecified manner the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
The Trump administration has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a bulwark against Iran's ambitions in the region. The kingdom and its allies have been emboldened by Trump's unwavering dedication to pressuring Iran's leadership, which includes his decision to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and re-imposing punishing sanctions to cripple its economy.
Saudi Arabia is one of the major buyers of U.S.-made weapons, and the U.S. provides intelligence and aerial refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen. U.S. lawmakers, angered by the Oct. 2 assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, have looked to suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia on a nuclear technology-sharing agreement and have called for halting arms sales to Riyadh. Trump, nevertheless, maintains that the order of $110 billion in weapons that support 500,000 U.S. jobs should not be put in peril.
Last year, Trump made an undiplomatic remark about the U.S.' close ally Saudi Arabia, saying he warned King Salman he would not last in power "for two weeks" without the backing of the U.S. military.
Riyadh has worked to cultivate warm relations with Trump after having rocky moments with former President Barack Obama. Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump for his first overseas trip as president. Trump's administration, particularly his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has sought a close relationship with King Salman's son, Mohammed bin Salman, the country's crown prince and next in line to the throne.