Bipartisan House Bill Would Freeze All Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
Outrage over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has sparked a movement to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey generated intense reactions in the United States and across the world. Last Sunday, Germany announced it would stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, at least for the time being, and now a bill in Congress is proposing to do the same.
Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusettes is leading a bipartisan group of 21 House lawmakers backing a bill calling for the immediate halt to arms sales to the Saudi government. Other legislators backing the bill include House Armed Services Committee members, Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Reps. Justin Amash, of Michigan, and Thomas Massie, were the only other Republican co-sponsors.
“Under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, I’ve called for a serious review of our arms sales to the Saudi government,” McGovern, ranking member of the House Rules Committee, said in a statement. “With the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it’s time for the United States to halt all weapons sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia. Our democratic values are on the line here – and we need to step up as a country and do the right thing.”
According to the text of the bill, the bill would “prohibit the provision of United States security assistance to the Government of Saudi Arabia,” as well as freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and U.S. Tied Together by Weapons Sales
Saudi Arabia is a lucrative arms customer of the U.S. and in May of 2017 signed an intent to immediately purchase $110 billion in arms from the U.S. and another $350 billion over ten years. President Trump condemned the journalist’s death, and his administration revoked the visas of 21 Saudi suspects linked to Khashoggi’s death, but Trump has repeatedly stated that he does not want to cancel any pending arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
According to Defense News, Senator Menendez of New Jersey, has effectively frozen arms sales to Saudi Arabia since last July. Menendez is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat. Last July, he told both Defense Secretay Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that before approving a sale of munition kits to Saudi Arabia, they must provide more evidence that precision-guided munitions would be used strategically and not worsen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that revoking the visas of the unnamed Saudi’s would not be the only step the Trump administration takes.
“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
The administration “will continue to hold those responsible accountable. We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, with violence,” he said. “Neither the president or I am happy with this situation.”
The slain reporter was a strong critic of the Saudi government, but was last seen entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia admitted Khashoggi was killed but claimed discussions with the journalist in the consulate turned violent and Khashoggi died in a fistfight, though recent reports suggest Saudi Arabia is willing to admit it was a premeditated murder.
Every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is up for election on November 6, 2018 – the results of the upcoming election could determine the fate of the bill and the fate of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.