US House objection to arms sales to Riyadh likely to be vetoed

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published 19.07.2019 00:07

The U.S. House of Representatives approved three resolutions to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan Wednesday, but U.S. President Donald Trump is unlikely to respond positively to the demand amid increasing tensions with Iran. Earlier in May, President Trump announced that 22 arms deals were going into effect at a cost of about $8 billion. There is a growing concern in the House over Saudi Arabia's intentions and actions. Several rights groups published reports accusing the kingdom of committing war crimes in Yemen.

Moreover, the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year was a blow to Riyadh's image in the international arena and caused more growing concerns about its violation of human rights.

Despite concerns about the kingdom's actions in Yemen and suppression of dissidents, the Trump administration considers Riyadh the main ally against the allegedly growing threat posed by Iran. Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in proxy wars not just in Yemen but in Iraq, Syria and the Iranian Gulf as well. Therefore, Trump believes that arming Saudi Arabia will help eliminate the Iranian threat.

Trump is expected to veto the three resolutions and continue the arms sales. On the one hand, he seems determined to continue supporting Saudi Arabia against Iran, as he has been stymieing decision-makers wanting to adopt a coherent policy toward Saudi Arabia by promising the U.S. will end its support for the ongoing war in Yemen. At the same time, it was reported yesterday that the U.S. would reinforce its military presence in Saudi Arabia by sending hundreds of more troops.

It is also clear that the recent move by the House was related to U.S. domestic policies as House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that the deals were an "extraordinary but necessary" step to counteract an "abuse of power" by Trump.

There was no immediate reaction from Riyadh to the latest developments. However, Saudi Arabia, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), has been waging a clear proxy war against Iran.

According to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia has been the largest arms importer in the world for the years 2014 through 2018, as 12 percent of all arms imports were made by Saudi Arabia, a 192 percent increase since 2013.

"Among the key reasons behind these increases were the mutual distrust between Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other; the war in Yemen, which began in 2015; and since mid-2017 the hostile relations between Qatar on the one side and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other," the report said. Its main arms supplier was the U.S. with a 68 percent share.

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