US Senate blocks plan to stop an arms sale to Bahrain – one of the countries bombing Yemen
The US senate has rejected an effort by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to block a major arms sale to Bahrain – more proof that if there’s one thing that unites Democrats and Republicans, it’s selling weapons to Middle Eastern allies.
The senate voted 77-21 on Thursday to table the resolution, which would have blocked the $300 million arms sale to the Persian Gulf nation, which is a member of the Saudi-Arabia led coalition currently bombing Yemen.
In recent weeks, US lawmakers have publicly professed concern over the war in Yemen and its growing civilian death toll but, when faced with the opportunity to block arms from reaching one of the nations doing the bombing, they demurred.
Paul implored senators to support his motion, calling for an end to “the US involvement” in Yemen’s brutal civil war. “Your tax dollars are supporting this war, so I think there ought to be a debate. So that’s what I stand up today to do, is to force a debate on whether or not we should be involved with aiding and abetting the Saudi coalition in this war in Yemen,” Paul said in a speech on the senate floor.
But the Republican’s pleas fell on deaf ears and the motion died a swift death in the upper chamber.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he opposed Paul’s effort because Bahrain is a “critical ally” of the US, citing the fact that the country hosts US naval forces which he said puts it at risk of attack from Iran or terrorist groups. Menendez said that the sale of 120 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and 110 Army Tactical Missile Systems to Bahrain had nothing to do with Yemen.
The White House said it “strongly opposes” Paul’s move to block the sale, claiming that the weapons systems will “enhance Bahrain’s ability to protect itself against threats to territorial sovereignty, particularly from Iran” and will “bolster a Bahraini defense infrastructure that supports United States activities and priorities.”
Last week, in response to growing anger about US involvement in the Yemen war, the Pentagon announced that the US would stop providing aerial refuelling to Saudi-coalition aircraft, but the White House still intends to continue with arms sales to Riyadh, something which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are increasingly uneasy about, particularly in the wake of the murder of US-based Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Trump administration decided this week to sanction 17 Saudi citizens for their alleged roles in the murder, but Trump has publicly rejected the notion of halting weapons sales to the country, citing the “massive amounts of money” that come from arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
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