$1.5 billion Saudi arms deal raises objections in Senate

A White House-backed proposal to sell over $1.5 billion in military hardware to Saudi Arabia is facing resistance among an unusual collection of senators over the Saudi-led coalition military operations carried out in Yemen and fears of an expanding arms race in the Middle East.

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) sponsored the measure intending to block the sale.

The aid package contains 130 M-1 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and an assortment of related military hardware.

Following an Aug. 9 announcement of the sale by the Pentagon, 64 House members sent a letter to the White House recommending President Obama defer the aid package.

The senators main concern rests with civilian deaths resulting from the Saudi-led bombing campaign; it is estimated by rights groups over 2,000 Yemeni civilians have died since the bombing campaign began in 2015.

“Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and ISIS, are getting stronger. Until the Saudis’ conduct changes, the U.S. should put a pause on further arms sales,” Senator Murphy said in a statement.

The Saudi-led air operation aims to defeat Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.  Rights groups have assailed the Saudi kingdom’s aerial campaign as reckless.

 

[Reuters] [Photo courtesy notey.com]