Friday May 24, 2019
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, saying there is a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, is clearing the sale of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries, US senators said on Friday, despite strong resistance to the plan from both Republicans and Democrats.
The administration has informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 arms deals worth some $8 billion, congressional aides said, sweeping aside a long-standing precedent for congressional review of such sales.
Some lawmakers and congressional aides had warned earlier this week that Trump, frustrated with Congress holding up weapons sales like a major deal to sell Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions to Saudi, was considering using a loophole in arms control law to go ahead with the sale by declaring a national emergency.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump Administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement.
Menendez is one of the members of Congress who reviews such sales because he is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Another, the Republican Foreign Relations Committee chairperson, Senator Jim Risch, said he had received formal notification of the administration’s intent to move forward with “a number of arms sales”.
In a statement, Risch said, “I am reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.